Upcoming: New Rules on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace


As of April 2024, there have been ongoing discussions and legislative developments aimed at tackling sexual harassment in the workplace in the UK. Here’s a brief overview of key aspects that employers should be aware of, and potential future changes to keep an eye on:

Current Framework

As it stands, sexual harassment in the workplace in the UK is governed by the Equality Act 2010. This Act defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct related to a person’s sex that has the purpose or effect of violating dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment.

Recent and Upcoming Changes

  1. Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment: The UK Government has proposed the introduction of a new statutory Code of Practice to provide employers with detailed guidance on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. Once implemented, adherence to this code will be considered during tribunal cases, potentially affecting judgments and settlements.
  2. Preventive Measures: There is a push for employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment. This includes training, developing clear policies, and ensuring robust procedures for reporting and handling complaints. Employers who fail to take these preventative measures might find themselves at greater legal risk.
  3. Mandatory Reporting: Discussions around mandatory reporting of sexual harassment incidents in annual reports for larger companies have been taking place. This could mirror initiatives similar to the gender pay gap reporting and would aim to increase transparency and accountability.
  4. Extension of Time Limits: There have been calls to extend the time limit for bringing a claim of sexual harassment to an employment tribunal from three months to six months. This would provide victims more time to make a decision about legal action.
  5. Third-Party Harassment: Legislation might be reintroduced to protect employees from harassment by third parties, such as clients or customers. This requirement was previously part of the Equality Act but was removed in 2013.

HR Implications

  • Policy Update: HR departments should review and update their anti-harassment policies to align with new guidelines and legislation.
  • Training: There should be a renewed focus on training all staff, not just HR, about their rights and responsibilities regarding anti-harassment.
  • Support Systems: Implementing confidential reporting systems and support mechanisms for victims of harassment.
  • Monitoring and Enforcement: Establishing clear metrics and procedures for monitoring workplace culture and enforcing policies effectively.

In Summary

While these changes are aimed at strengthening protections against sexual harassment, the actual impact will depend on how well they are implemented by organisations. Business owners and managers will need to stay informed about legislative developments, adapt their policies and practices accordingly, and ensure they are fostering a safe and respectful work environment.

Please get in touch for further updates, and for help with putting a plan in place.

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