New employer duty to prevent sexual harassment
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 received royal assent on 26 October 2023 and will come into force in October 2024. This legislation will introduce a new duty on employers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment of their employees.
It will also allow employment tribunals to uplift compensation in successful sexual harassment claims by up to 25% where an employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.
While there is no exhaustive list of the steps that employers will need to have taken to comply with the new duty, it is our view that most employers will need to do far more than they are currently doing. Simply having a bullying and harassment policy will not come close enough.
Reasonable steps are likely to include:
- formulating and communicating an effective anti-harassment policy;
- assessing risk in your organisation and taking steps to minimise it;
- engaging with and training staff about the organisation’s approach to sexual harassment on an ongoing basis;
- making sure people know how to report sexual harassment; and
- dealing effectively with complaints.
We consider this piece of legislation will be one of the most significant pieces of employment legislation (in terms of impact in the workplace) in the last 20 years or so. Therefore, employers should be proactive and prioritise this before October 2024.