Following on from its 2019 consultation, the Government has published its commitment to introduce a duty on employers to proactively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. It is also considering extending the time limits for bringing such claims from 3 months to 6 months under the Equality Act 2010.
Whilst there has been a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, the significance of the new proposals are that there will be a duty placed on employers to proactively prevent such harassment.
What is meant by proactive prevention? Legislation currently provides that there is a duty on employers to ensure that they have taken measures to prevent harassment in the workplace but under the proposed new legislation proactive duty means that the employer must have taken all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. This could include, training, appropriate policies and ensuring that the steps that employers have in place are sufficient for their business. The exact requirements are yet to be clarified by The Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The Government has also stated that it tends to reintroduce the third party harassment in the workplace protections that were repealed in 2013. At this stage it is unclear as to how this will be reintroduced and whether it will have the same requirements of a proactive duty to prevent third party harassment in the workplace. It should be noted that at this stage it is unclear as to whether this will extend to all forms of harassment or just that of sexual harassment.
Although there has been no confirmation as to when these proposed changes are due to come into force, employers should start taking those positive steps towards the proactive prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
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