How employers can help to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace
Wednesday 29th November 2023
A new positive duty has been placed on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
This comes following the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 receiving Royal Assent and coming into force in October 2024.
The Act will amend the Equality Act 2010 to introduce a statutory duty on employers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent the sexual harassment of their employees.
The change in the law is a further statutory obligation for employers to take proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. As of now, the scope of this duty is slightly unclear as there is no guidance as to what constitutes as ‘reasonable steps’. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is set to release an update to its technical guidance on sexual harassment and harassment at work. This update will reflect the introduction of the new duty and include more specific detail on the steps employers must take to be compliant with the new legislation.
These changes are significantly less onerous than those that had originally been proposed. Notably, employer liability for failure to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to protect their staff from third party harassment has been removed entirely.
Tribunal compensation uplift
The legislation will also afford Employment Tribunals the power to uplift compensation for breach of this duty by up to 25%. Employers should be aware that this uplift appears to apply to the entire compensatory award for harassment, not just compensation for conduct of a sexual nature.
The existing EHRC technical guidance sets out some practical considerations for employers for the prevention of sexual harassment, such considerations may include carrying out a harassment risk assessment and a review of registers for reporting harassment incidents.
Our Employment Team will be more than happy to help you implement such considerations and advise further on the changes, so please do not hesitate get in touch.