WITH MORE MEN TRAINING AS THERAPISTS and using salon services, situations can arise where members of one sex feel uncomfortable treating the other. A salon might introduce male waxing, for example, then find a female therapist refuses to do it.
The refusal might stem from embarrassment or concerns about safety, or it might be based on religious or personal reasons, but where do you as the employer stand?
As a starting point, when you recruit, give applicants a comprehensive job description so they know exactly which treatments they’re expected to do, and ask if they have any concerns.
If you have a great female therapist who’s unhappy waxing men then you have to decide if you can employ her with this proviso. Can you reallocate other work to her, for example? You wouldn’t wish to place any therapist in a position where they felt uncomfortable; but equally you need to manage your decision with other staff.
Security is a major issue. Written working practices should be produced, and training and client expectations should be explicit. It wouldn’t be cost effective to have a chaperone but for new staff you might agree to doubling up for induction and confidence building. In addition, you could ensure bookings aren’t taken at times when reception isn’t covered. You might even consider panic alarms for therapist security.
You might decide you want to employ only males to carry out male waxing. This is potentially permissible under the Equality Act but is likely to be difficult to enforce if challenged.
There was a significant case in the NHS in 2006. At that time only 10% of nurses were male and one resigned and claimed sex discrimination because, unlike female nurses, he was chaperoned when carrying out intimate female procedures. He won his case and the consensus was that patients should be given a choice.
You wouldn’t wish to place any therapist in a position where they felt uncomfortable; but you need to manage your decision with other staff
If a therapist refuses to do a treatment, of course you will try to reach a compromise, but if there is a blanket refusal you only have two options – accept it or don’t.
If you reluctantly accept you might need to review the employee’s hours now they’re not providing the full range of services. If you decide the refusal can’t be accepted there are two routes.
Keep a record of all the efforts you have made to reason with the employee. After several attempts, issue an instruction that clients will be booked into the column and if the therapist doesn’t treat them they will be dismissed for refusing to follow a reasonable instruction. Of course, you must first follow your disciplinary procedure. The alternative is to issue a warning, final warning and eventually dismissal. This takes longer but is less confrontational.
Ultimately, an employee may take the case to a tribunal to decide if the dismissal constituted illegal discrimination, but not wanting to do something is not the same as being protected by the law from doing it. PB
David Wright is a consultant in all aspects of employment practice and law. He is the main employment law consultant for Habia and provides a personalised support service for UK salons.
Tel: 01302 563691