THE customer may be king, but workers have rights, too. That is the main message a group of 43 companies from the retail and service sectors want to put out to their staff and the public.

And they put their words to paper yesterday, signing a pledge to make their workplaces harassment-free.

Among other things, the firms will look into laying out guidelines for appropriate conduct in the workplace and setting up effective feedback channels for staff to report behaviour they feel may constitute harassment.

Some 30,600 workers are expected to benefit from the measures implemented by their companies, the majority of which fall under the National Trades Union Congress' hospitality and consumer business cluster.

The move comes after the Protection from Harassment Bill was passed in March to better protect people from issues such as sexual harassment and online bullying.

Mr Tan Hock Soon, chairman of the cluster, said after the event at Furama Riverfront Singapore hotel that the aim is to raise awareness about workplace harassment.

"We want to create the kind of environment where there is mutual respect among workers, and also between workers and customers, because among our members, many of them are front-line staff and customers can be abusive or threatening," he said.

Employers that signed the pledge include 7-Eleven, Gardens by the Bay and The American Club.

Another signatory is Pan Pacific Singapore, which is also keen on educating its staff on their rights.

The hotel's director of human capital and development Alice Lee said she has seen two cases of harassment in the two years she has been with the hotel, including one of a young part-time waitress who was still studying.

"Sometimes, guests being guests, they think the guest is always right," she said, adding that they occasionally use very blunt words or even vulgarities towards staff.

"Some of our service associates think, 'because I'm in the service line, I'll just take it, I have no choice'. We want to tell them they do have a choice, they can raise it up to us."

Currently, the hotel's operations managers can reject guests if they are harassing employees. Supervisors are also briefed on appropriate behaviour and language to use when managing staff, who may be of a range of ethnicities and nationalities.

Ms Lee also sees the new pledge as a tool to encourage potential hires to come on board.

"We can tell them that being in the service industry does not mean you can be harassed."