The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill has received Royal Assent, becoming the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023. The Act introduces a new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment at work.
Once the law comes fully into force, the new duty on employers will be enforceable by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). In addition, employment tribunals will have the power to uplift the compensation awarded in sexual harassment cases by up to 25% if they find that an employer has breached the duty.
It is interesting to note that the wording of the draft Bill initially placed an obligation on employers to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment at work. However, that wording was amended in the House of Lords to require employers to take only ‘reasonable steps’ to do so. This amendment stemmed from concerns that there would otherwise be an almost infinite number of steps that employers could be expected to take. In addition, there were objections to the reinstatement of protections relating to harassment by third parties, such as clients and customers (which had been repealed in 2013, after that earlier legislation was deemed to be unworkable).
Timeframe for implementation
The new measures will come into force one year after the Act was passed (i.e. on 26 October 2024).
The EHRC has welcomed the introduction of this protection and has stated that, to support employers, it will update its technical guidance on sexual harassment to reflect the new duty.
As with all key legislative changes, Make UK will support its subscribers to understand the new provisions and will keep them updated on developments. To read our earlier e-alerts on issues relating to sexual harassment, see here and here. We can also support in other ways, as outlined in the ‘How we can help’ section below.
How we can help
Make UK offers a package of support aimed at preventing sexual harassment at work, including a template Anti-bullying and harassment policy (including guidance notes), staff surveys (Pulse surveys) and anti-harassment training for staff (micro-awareness video and/or half day workshop). For further details, click here or email [email protected].
Our HR consultants are very experienced in assisting companies with investigation processes, either in a supporting role or running the process as independent investigators. If you need assistance conducting an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and would like to find out how we can help you, email [email protected].
If you are a Make UK subscriber, you can speak to your regular adviser for guidance on managing internal investigations, including taking disciplinary action that may be needed as a result. You can also access further information about harassment and bullying, including template policies and drafting guidance, in the HR & Legal Resources section of our website.
If you are not a Make UK subscriber, our expert HR and legal advisers can offer guidance on a consultancy basis. For further information, contact us on 0808 168 5874 or email [email protected].