EHRC highlights deficient workplace protections against sexual harassment

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Walker Morris risk series stampIn the wake of recent high-profile sexual harassment claims, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published a new report setting out several proposals for reform aimed at addressing perceived inadequacies in current protections for victims of sexual harassment at work.

The EHRC proposes that employers should be placed under a specific and enforceable duty of care to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace backed up by a new statutory code of practice which would specify key expectations and a requirement on organisations to publish sexual harassment policies online.

The EHRC also recommends that:

  • tribunal time limits for victims to bring sexual harassment claims should be extended to six months
  • any non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality provision which may prevent the disclosure of past, current or future acts of discrimination or harassment would be unlawful
  • tribunals should be given the power to apply an uplift to compensation for harassment of up to 25% for breach of mandatory elements of the code of practice.

We advise employers to review their existing polices on sexual harassment (and indeed any form of harassment) to check they are still fit for purpose and that staff are fully aware of the policies’ existence and how to report any concerns. There has undoubtedly been a culture shift in the last year in this area making it even less likely that any ‘banter’ or conduct of a sexual nature at work will be found to be acceptable if ever challenged in an Employment Tribunal. Managers need to have this on their radar and spend some time observing how employees interact with each other in the office or on the shop floor so anything unacceptable can be nipped in the bud.

If you would like further advice on this topic please contact David Smedley or Andrew Rayment.