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From time to time we learn about circumstances in Pre-schools and Day Nurseries where parents are asking you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.

A common one we hear of is a parent asking that you to ensure that your male member of staff doesn’t change their little girl’s nappy as in their culture, men don’t do that.

Firstly we must be careful as cultural beliefs overlap with religious beliefs (although there is no discrimination on a cultural basis they may be able to establish that the culture arises as a result of their religious beliefs).

When this happens you need to address it, sweeping it under the carpet could cause you more problems.

I think that a reasonable procedure would be to firstly meet with the family to explain the following:

  1. All staff are DBS checked and these checks are regularly updated
  2. That there is a rigorous recruitment process in place.
  3. That all staff are treated equally.
  4. That you will consider their request and get back to them.

I suspect that this will not allay the concerns of the family as they have not said they are worried about the male abusing the child – it is merely a cultural thing.

You should then meet with the male employee and explain:-

  1. the family have raised these concerns on the basis of their culture.
  2. you have absolute confidence in the employee.
  3. you are not comfortable with the request but feel it is necessary to speak with him.
  4. whilst it is an unusual request you are providing a service to customers.
  5. you must respect the cultural traditions of all children  and their families (on a comparable basis, you wouldn’t force any child to eat ham – even if their religion/ culture allowed it?)

You should then ask the employee if he has any concerns about the proposals.

Would he be happy to comply with the request?

If so then you should ensure that the meeting is minuted. Then if he subsequently raised a concern or alleges discrimination you have the evidence that you took reasonable steps at the time to ensure that the employee did not feel discriminated against.

You also gave him an opportunity to say that he was not happy.

The only time I would be fearful of a claim would be if multiple parents made the same request and this resulted in either:-

  • the male employee becoming redundant as he had no work to do; or
  • another male not being employed on the basis that he would not be able to change nappies

It can be a tricky business, but hopefully you have found this useful. If you need any assistance, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01527 909436.