The government has announced it will introduce a statutory Code of Practice on sexual harassment.
The aim in the code is to make clear the action employers need to take to comply with their legal obligations.
What is behind the government’s decision?
All the high-profile and public cases and the prevalence of the #MeToo movement have shown the scale and magnitude of sexual harassment in our workforces.
The Women & Equalities Committee published a report in July 2018, which called upon the government to establish a mandatory duty on employers to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.
They believed that a breach of this duty should be enforceable by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) with substantial financial penalties. The Committee also suggested that there should be a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment which should lay down what employers are required to do in order to fulfil this duty.
How has the government reacted?
The government has decided to work with the EHRC and introduce a Code of Practice. However, they have stopped short of creating a duty on employers to protect workers from victimisation or harassment and they have also not decided to bring in tougher sanctions on those employers with poor practices.
As part of their 12 point plan, the government will consult on non-disclosure agreements and third party harassment.
They will also consult on whether additional protection is needed for volunteers and interns and whether to extend the time limit for submitting claims to Employment Tribunals. The government will also consider the evidence base for a legal duty imposed on employers to stop employees from being harassed.
The government has also agreed to gather data on the pervasiveness of workplace sexual harassment.
- Develop and promote a working environment where employees are encouraged to report any cases of sexual harassment.
- Train your managers so they understand how all internal policies and procedures work.
- Have all the right HR policies and procedures in place. Seek legal advice when drafting your codes of conduct, grievance procedure, bullying and harassment procedure and all other appropriate HR policies.
- Take allegations of sexual harassment seriously and act when issues arise.
If you would like to discuss this further, contact your Employment Law Adviser for support.