Sexual Harassment in the workplace

Sexual Harassment in the workplace's Tags

Tags related to this article

Sexual Harassment in the workplace

Published 6 August 2018

The facts

The Women and Equalities Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the policy of the Government Equalities Office among other things. In February 2018, the Committee launched an inquiry on sexual harassment in the workplace, as a way to harness the momentum of #MeToo. They have now produced a five point plan setting out recommendations for change calling on the Government to:

1. Put sexual harassment at the top of the agenda, by

  • Introducing a new mandatory duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and victimisation in the workplace.
  • Supporting the duty by a statutory code of practice, breach of which is an unlawful act enforceable by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and carrying substantial fines.
  • Extending sexual harassment protections to interns and volunteers.
  • Reintroducing third party harassment, but not restricting this to cases where there were previous occurrences of harassment by third parties.
  • In the public sector introducing a specific duty under the Public Sector Equality Duty requiring relevant public employers to conduct risk assessments for sexual harassment in the workplace and to put in place a plan to mitigate those risks.
  • Work with ACAS, the EHRC and employers on an awareness raising campaign.


2. Require regulators to take a more active role, starting by

  • All Regulators putting in place an action plan setting out the action they will take to ensure the employers they regulate take action to protect workers from sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Regulators making it clear that sexual harassment by regulated persons is a breach of regulatory requirements by the individual and their organisation and a reportable offence with sanctions.

3. Make enforcement processes work better for employees by

  • Setting out in the statutory code of practice what employers should do to prevent and respond to sexual harassment.
  • Giving Tribunals the discretion to apply an uplift to compensation of up to 25% in harassment claims where there has been a breach of the mandatory requirements of the statutory code.
  • Reducing barriers to taking forward tribunal cases, including by extending the time limit for submitting a claim to 6 months, introducing punitive damages in sexual harassment cases and reducing cost risks for employees by putting a presumption of costs onto the employer if it loses a claim.
  • Introducing special measures in sexual harassment claims to make it easier on the victim to give evidence.
  • Reintroducing a statutory questionnaire and the tribunal's powers to make recommendations.

4. Clean up the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), including by

  • Legislating to require the use of standard, plain English government approved confidentiality clauses, in for example contracts of employment and settlement agreements, which set out the meaning, limit and effect of the clause, and making it an offence to misuse such clauses; and
  • Extending whistleblowing protections so that disclosures to the police and all regulators are protected disclosures.

5. Collect robust data, on the

  • Extent of sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Number of employment tribunal claims involving complaints of harassment of a sexual nature.

What this means for employers

At the moment these are just proposals. However, there is likely to be a will to bring about change in the light of media attention, and this issue being on Parliament's agenda as an employer itself. There would need to be consultation and regulations made to bring these proposals into force, and with so much Parliamentary time taken up currently with Brexit, this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

View the original document here.

Authors

Ceri Fuller

Ceri Fuller

London - Walbrook

+44 (0)20 7894 6583

Key Contacts

Ceri Fuller

Ceri Fuller

London - Walbrook

+44 (0)20 7894 6583

< Back to articles