New Duty on Employers to Prevent Sexual Harassment
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 (“Act”), which received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023, introduces a significant new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees and workers. This new law comes into force in October 2024, giving employers a year to prepare.
This is the Act itself: Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 (legislation.gov.uk)
Key Provisions of the Act
The Act amends the Equality Act 2010 by introducing a new section 40A, which imposes a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees and workers. The duty applies to all employers, regardless of their size or sector.
The Act also gives employment tribunals the power to increase compensation by up to 25% where an employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.
The original wording also imposed a duty to prevent sexual harassment by third parties. This might have included customers or suppliers. The House of Lords removed this further duty as the legislation went through parliament as too onerous and unworkable. However, it would still be prudent to take action to prevent any sexual harassment by third parties.
Recommendations for Action
Employers should take the following steps to comply with the new duty:
- Develop and implement a clear and comprehensive sexual harassment policy. This policy should define sexual harassment, explain how to report incidents, and outline the disciplinary consequences for anyone found to have subjected any other person to sexual harassment.
- Provide training to all employees on sexual harassment. This training should cover the definition of sexual harassment, how to recognise it, and how to report it.
- Create a workplace culture that is open and respectful. Encourage employees to speak up if they feel harassed or uncomfortable. Create a supportive environment for victims of sexual harassment.
- Take prompt action to investigate any allegations of sexual harassment. This may involve conducting interviews, gathering evidence, and taking disciplinary action against anyone found to have engaged in sexual harassment. Take prompt legal advice at an early stage.
- Keep records of all sexual harassment complaints and investigations. This information may be needed if an employer is challenged on its compliance with the new duty.
The new duty to prevent sexual harassment is a significant step in protecting employees. By taking proactive steps to revise policies, provide education, and promote a culture of respect, employers can safeguard their employees and uphold the spirit of the Act. It is a crucial moment for HR to lead the way in creating workplaces free from sexual harassment, fostering a more inclusive and safer environment for all employees.
If you would like advice on how to comply with this duty or a quote for our retainer service (Keelys LLP Employment Solicitors in Lichfield | Employment Law Experts), please contact Ian Pettifer: firstname.lastname@example.org