Sexual harassment is defined in the Equality Act 2010, but in essence is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. The Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) published a report on the extent to which sexual harassment is prevalent in the workplace. The report, along with other campaigns led to a government consultation into harassment in the workplace. The consultation found that 54% of respondents had experienced harassment in the workplace.
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023 and is set to come into force in October 2024.
The new legislation is not as wide range as was originally proposed. The Bill initially proposed that employers should take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the course of employment. However, it was amended on its passage through the House of Lords and the obligation on employers was reduced to taking ‘reasonable steps’ to avoid employees being subjected to sexual harassment. There is no guidance (as yet) to explain what will be viewed as ‘reasonable steps’.
Up to a 25% uplift in compensation where an employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.
Although the Act doesn’t come into force until October 2024, employers should take steps now in preparation:
- Review your current policies on sexual harassment, considering the process you take when a report is made.
- Review your current approach to protecting employees from sexual harassment by other employees and consider whether any further steps should be taken in light of the new legislation.
- Review your disciplinary procedure to make sure you are in the best position to deal effectively with someone who commits sexual harassment.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please do get in touch with our employment team.