A new law has recently been passed that will place a legal duty on employers to take “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment at work. The duty will come into force in October 2024, giving employers time to review what they are already doing to prevent sexual harassment, and whether they need to take additional steps to comply.
Government guidance sets out examples of the steps that employers can take to prevent sexual harassment, including:
- Having effective policies and procedures in place;
- Encouraging employees to report harassment, and providing appropriate ways for them to do so;
- Regular training for employees on harassment;
- Promoting a culture of ‘zero-tolerance’;
- Including harassment within risk assessments, identifying any particular risks that may be present and considering how these can be addressed;
- Thoroughly investigating any complaints and addressing them appropriately.
The new duty will cover any harassment that might occur during employment, regardless of whether that’s committed by employees. Employers will need to consider what steps they can take in respect of third parties such as their contractors, suppliers and customers, particularly in sectors where women are more at risk of harassment such as in hospitality, care, and transport.
If the duty to take reasonable steps is not complied with, employers could face enforcement action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and be ordered to pay increased amounts of compensation to any victims of sexual harassment. Conversely, if you can demonstrate that you’ve taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent harassment, this can give you a defence to claims for acts of harassment committed by your employees. It’s not just about the legal and reputational risks – the culture of your business affects how likely it is you can attract and retain the right talent.
Our specialist team of employment lawyers can support your business with introducing policies, training or any other steps you may take to prevent harassment at work. To find out more, or if you have any questions, please contact George Miller on 01159 454425 or email@example.com