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From time to time in Day Nurseries, Pre-schools and Clubs across the land, parents do something they shouldn’t do. It’s not always clear why it happens. Could it be that the professional lines get blurred and that as the practitioners are taking such good care of the children of these parents, they forget that these are suppliers of a service and not their friends?

We can’t be sure why it happens, but when it does there can be very serious implications.

I am talking about parents harassing your staff.

Under the Equality Act 2010 we were initially responsible for any examples of harassment by third parties. The law has been weakened over recent years, yet as an employer you still have a duty of care to ensure your staff do not experience harassment in the workplace. Harassment is defined as ‘unwanted attention’.

Yes that can be the aggressive mother/father who picks on a vulnerable worker, but quite common it is a father sexually harassing a female staff member. Usually their child’s key worker, but it’s sometimes another employee that they have developed an interest in.

Only last week we had a father tell his daughters key worker that he could “see the outline of her lace bra through her blouse.” The only witness a 2.5 year little girl in the arms of her key worker for one last cuddle before going home.  How did she not drop that little girl when he whispered in her ear, I do not know.

Sometimes they have babysat for the family and there is a relationship outside of work, sometimes they share friends, and sometimes live in same street.  Harassment can have a devastating impact on the lives it affects and women who are normally very ‘together’ have ‘fell apart’ after being singled out for this unwanted sexual attention.

We often hear about situations where a parent has overstepped acceptable behaviours.   Employer’s struggle with the decisions they face, address the behaviour and lose a customer, don’t address and lose an employee!

I would say that if this has happened in your setting your priority is your employee and the parent needs to be asked to stop attending the setting. Where both parents are involved in the childcare, it is not uncommon for one parent to be asked to not attend in the future as they not welcome. I am sure this causes issues for the parents, but if they harass the staff there has to be a consequence. Plenty of ‘other halves’ are so embarrassed by their partners behaviour that the leave the setting for good.

Take the man, who presented his child’s key worker with a bra and knicker set from LaSenza. She was horrified (after initially being horrified by the size he had chosen for her!) the mother wasn’t living with the father at the time and couldn’t face the embarrassment of her husband, ‘hitting on’ the Nursery Nurse. They had had a relationship with her as a babysitter in better times. She moved her children to a nursery near her place of work, rather than her home so she wasn’t reminded of the sorry incident.

So to recap make sure you have a Bullying and Harassment Policy in your handbook, make sure staff feel they can come to you and report allegations of harassment and that you will take them seriously.  Don’t tolerate your staff being harassed in your Day Nursery and deal with the allegation in a way that looks after the interests of your staff member.  Customers can be replaced.

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