You may be wondering why new rules are being introduced when sexual harassment in the workplace has been illegal for some time. However, although responsible employers currently take steps to deal with incidents of harassment, they do not have a legal duty to prevent it happening in the first place.
A new law has been proposed which will shift the emphasis and push liability onto the employer to take steps that stop sexual harassment happening in the first place.
How could this change things?
Employers are already expected to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment at work. In future, the burden will be on the employer to show the steps it took. An Employment Tribunal will be looking for a well-established and clearly communicated harassment policy, a defined disciplinary process, staff training in this area and records of action taken against employees who do not comply with the policy.
More guidance is on its way and this will clarify what employers need to do to comply. The Government has also pledged to support the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in developing a statutory code of practice.