Preventing sexual harassment

The government has finally responded to the consultation that it began in February 2019. It has ended where it started and plans to stand by its original proposals following the #MeToo campaign. The plan has four pillars

  • It will introduce a new duty for employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission will develop a new statutory code of practice along with complementary guidance.
  • It will introduce workplace protections against third party harassment ‘when parliamentary time allows’.
  • The government will ‘look closely’ at extending the time limit for all claims under the Equality Act 2010 from three months to six months.

Intentions to ‘look closely’ at acting and plans to legislate ‘as soon as’ or ‘when’ parliamentary time allows mean that the law will change but we don’t know when. So, what, if anything, should you do now?

Legislation often lags behind societal and cultural change. Your current and prospective employees will expect you to prevent and tackle harassment in the workplace. So you should:

  • review your anti-harassment policies and procedures to ensure that they are robust
  • provide regular, targeted training to all staff on anti-harassment, equality and discrimination
  • develop a workplace culture of zero-tolerance to harassment, where all employees are encouraged to report inappropriate behaviour
  • have effective reporting mechanisms.