Handshakes May Be Banned under ‘No Physical Contact’ Rules

Shaking somebody’s hand just seems like a natural way to give a greeting. It is especially important when we are talking with a prospective employer. We may even think about the type of handshake that we give in advance, including how long we will hold it and how firm it will be.

It seems as if the handshake may be on its way out because employers could ban handshakes under rules associated with physical contact in the workplace.

The ban may be able to help with confusion about what is acceptable and is not acceptable physical contact in the workplace. It may also reduce claims of sexual harassment.

The associate director of advisory at HR Consultancy Peninsula, Kate Palmer had the following to say: “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.

“I haven’t seen anywhere go as far as banning shaking hands, but there may be an employer who has gone as far as that.”

Kate added: “You’re probably safe with a handshake – unless your employer says otherwise. If there’s a rule, follow it.

“That’s the most physical contact I would have with a fellow employee. Even if it’s a sensitive situation, when someone is upset I would be very mindful of a hug or putting my hand on their hand

Kate also talked about how the level of contact may differ from one person to another. An example that she provided was a pat on the back being more acceptable on a construction site than it is in an office environment.

She said that employers must have a physical contact policy in place and training should be provided to ensure that the policies are followed.

Kate concluded: “The workplace does extend outside the office. The classic example is the Christmas night out. We get a lot of queries about how to control staff behaviour at events.”

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