THE DAYS of company bosses wheeling out their most attractive employees to please customers could now lead to massive fines if found upsetting to staff, warns Stephen McNeill, Farleys employment expert.

Under new rules introduced by the Government, bosses face unlimited fines if they fail to protect staff from sexual harassment from customers, suppliers or third parties.

Now, any employer who fails to take responsible steps to protect its employees from sexual harassment after being told of at least two instances of it is liable for extensive and uncapped damages claims.

The law, which previously only protected individuals against harassment from colleagues, has been changed following a ruling by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that the Government was not adequately upholding the European equal treatment directive.

The directive requires workers to be protected from “any unwanted conduct related to their sex, which violates their dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

Stephen McNeill, equity partner and employment lawyer at Farleys says: In no way should these changes be underestimated, now every employee in the country is protected from sexual harassment by anyone that they meet as part of their work with third parties.

Exploiting the good looks of staff as a way of winning new customers is a dangerous tactic.

In a corporate entertainment environment, especially involving alcohol, it can lead to an unwanted situation for the employee. The boss will have to balance pleasing their important customers with the welfare of their staff. Companies that encourage this behaviour and fail to protect their staff could be severely punished by the courts if found guilty.”

The new rules will affect any organisation that employs client-facing staff, such as bar and waiting staff, and those who work in the professional services sector, as well as teachers and other public sector staff.

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