The government has finally published a response to the 2019 consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace. Below is what you need to know:
Employer duty – the government will introduce a positive duty on employers to proactively take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment. A definition of “all reasonable steps” has not been provided. Not only will the duty be enforceable by individual employees after an incident of sexual harassment, there’s the potential for standalone claims against employers paying lip service to the preventative measures they’ve introduced.
Third-party harassment – explicit protections will be introduced to protect employees from third-party harassment (by customers or suppliers, for example). Employers will have a defence to this type of claim if they’re able to show they’ve taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent it.
Extending time limits – the government will “look closely” at extending the time limit to bring a discrimination claim (changing it from three to six months). If this change is made it will likely be across all claims under the Equality Act 2010 to avoid potential confusion over time limits for different claims.
No timescale has been given on the introduction of these changes.
Taking a proactive approach to creating a positive and inclusive working environment doesn’t need to wait for government legislation. Clear policies, regular training and consistent communication will put you on the right track – get in touch for how we can support.