There are various degrees of physical contact which people consider as sexual harassment, however, the general consensus is that an unwanted or sexually inappropriate physical contact can be treated as such. So, to avoid confusion as to what sort of “touch” is acceptable or not, some employers in the UK are to impose a physical contact ban… which includes handshakes.
Apparently, sexual harassment claims in the workplace are quite costly, hence, some of the companies in the UK had to resort to… extreme solutions. They are now considering a “no physical contact” rules for all employees, and that means even something as a simple and traditional handshake may become grounds for sexual harassment.
Moreover, the ban wasn’t pulled out of thin air or is purely anecdotal, it actually came from a survey of 2000 people where 75 percent agreed to a total physical contact ban.
“Some employers may put a complete ban on physical contact. Whether that’s going too far or not is a question I would pose, because it’s contextual. Does shaking someone’s hand go too far? They may just say ‘no contact at all’ because there’s no grey area. It makes it simple, but it takes away affection which in some ways is a sad thing,” says Kate Palmer from the HR consultancy Peninsula.
Palmer also added that part of the employer’s fears stemmed from the #MeToo movements. They are now hard-pressed to come up with ways to prevent sexual harassment and non-negotiable “black and white” policies are probably one of them.
Still, Palmer stated that no employer or workplace has gone so far as to actually ban handshakes or any form of physical contact at the moment, those are still under consideration. Of course, different perspectives, cultures, and preferences make such a rule difficult to impose so nothing is set is stone yet, thankfully.
Next up, a complete ban on visual contact in the workplace– including stolen glimpses, probably five years from now, give or take.
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