A new Act is due to come into force next year which makes a significant change to the law on an employer’s obligations to protect employees from sexual harassment: The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act) Act.
It introduces a new duty to take “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of your employees in the course of their employment and places a legal obligation on all employers to take proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment.
A failure to do so can result in an uplift to compensation in any tribunal claims for sexual harassment, and there are new powers of enforcement in place from the Equality and Human Rights Commission which can impose penalties directly on employers
What are “reasonable steps”
The EHRC has indicated that it will update its guidance on sexual harassment and harassment at work and this is expected in January 2023. Although the law does not change until October 2024, you should start taking steps in the new year to prepare for the new legislation. This is likely to involve:
Updating and re-circulating anti-harassment policies and ensuring that policies focus on inclusion as well as equality.
Providing training to help staff members avoid the threat of harassment, and to give those who witness harassment the means to safely intervene or support victims.
Conducting risk assessments, where required, to identify risk factors and what action can be taken.
Ensuring there are clear reporting lines so that complaints about harassment are investigated and dealt with effectively.
Considering third-party facing steps like installing visible signs in areas where customers interact with staff members explaining that threats, violence and harassment will not be tolerated and providing a means for bystanders to report instances of staff harassment.