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Should hugging be banned at work?

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Should hugging be banned at work?

 flora mewies mmb magazine employment lawyer Ward hadaway
By Flora Mewies – Employment Solicitor WardHadaway

We can all think of a time when we have encountered an awkward interaction with someone in a work context, be it a new contact who goes in for a kiss while you’re holding your hand out to shake theirs or a colleague who is known as being the “one that hugs everyone” in the office.

Recent research by jobs board Totaljobs found that one in three workers experience an awkward greeting at work at least once a month and a fifth have been on the receiving end of an unexpected kiss.  Some people don’t find such situations awkward, however others are left feeling embarrassed and humiliated which causes them to shy away from future contact for fear that history repeats itself.

What rights do I have?

The recent #MeToo movement has empowered people to speak out about situations in the workplace which make them feel uncomfortable and this shouldn’t be any different. The majority of employers have a formal grievance policy which sets out a procedure for its workers to follow to raise concerns and have these heard and dealt with.

The person hearing the grievance should be independent and more senior to the person whose actions are the subject of the grievance. This should provide some comfort that the concerns will be properly considered and dealt with appropriately. It may be that all it takes is a quiet word in someone’s ear to make them realise that they’re making you uncomfortable, or in more serious circumstances, formal disciplinary action may be justified.

What should employers be doing?

It is difficult for employers to legislate against such situations as everyone will have their own preferred greeting and may not realise that it makes others feel uncomfortable, but as with many things, awareness is the key.

Research by Totaljobs found that only one in seven respondents to the survey had received any sort of guidance from their employer in the last 12 months. It is recommended that staff handbooks include policies dealing with equality, including harassment and that businesses set clear guidelines on what is and isn’t considered acceptable conduct in the workplace.  As well as doing this through the aforementioned policies, incorporating this into inductions or regular training is a good idea.

If you need further advice, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

ward hadaway flora mewies employment law services Leeds


Hugging at work Jan 2020

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