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Are single-sex Networking Events the ‘New’ Old Boys Club”?

Published in Employment Law, Performance Management

Following the recent incident that occurred with the Presidents Club dinner – Single Sex Networking and the alleged harassment of female hostesses, what are the possible legal implications for those organising and attending such events?

 

Matthew from Consensus HR comments “This is a great article that I read this week in People Management written by Emma Ahmed – 1st February 2018 in relation to single sex networking clubs and one since leaving the Head Office corporate world I have come across on numerous occasion’s.

 

In this article it highlights the recent incident involving ‘The Presidents Club’ dinner and the fact that the club had been running it on an annual basis for 33 years. This was a single sexed event aimed at male executives with women told to dress sexily in black outfits.

 

In this day and age it is disappointing to think that this kind of behaviour still takes place in order to raise substantial amounts (£2m a year) for charities.

 

Employers need to remember the possible legal consequences of arranging such events and the harm it can do to their reputation amongst many other things.

 

One of the key areas of law that covers this is the Equality Act 2010 which, contains exemptions that allow charities to restrict the services they offer to people of a particular sex (e.g. women’s refuges) and associations to restrict their membership to a single sex (e.g. golf clubs). However, it’s far from clear whether either of these exemptions applies here. In particular, it’s not clear if the Presidents Club is a single-sex members’ club, and the men attending the dinner did so as benefactors not beneficiaries.

 

The hostesses may also be able to pursue the culprits, or their employers, under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (under which employers can be vicariously liable for acts of harassment committed by their employees). Police action is another option if a physical assault or sexual groping has taken place. If convicted, this could lead to the culprit being forced to register as a sex offender.

 

Networking and business fundraising events should be open to all regardless of sex and managed accordingly with the correct action taken against individuals / businesses who undertake discrimination of any kind against anybody. It should also be remembered the possible unlimited financial consequences that could occur under the Equality Act 2010.

 

Further reading of the article by Emma Ahmed can be found by clicking here.