The Government has now published its response to the views obtained from a consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace in July 2019. The response made clear the Government’s intention to introduce a duty requiring employers to prevent sexual harassment and to go one step further, by introducing explicit protection against third-party harassment.

We have provided links below to the Government announcement on the new Code of Practice, plus links to the Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance.

Steps an employer can take include, but are not limited to:

  1. Provide training to all employees now and to new employees when you onboard them. You should also include other workers and refresh the training annually.
  2. Keep records of who has received the training.
  3. Provide additional training for managers so they understand how to deal with reports of bullying and harassment.
  4. Implement a policy in place which outlines how to report any form of bullying and harassment, offering routes to report to an independent source.
  5. Ensure you have an express clause in your contracts that employees must comply with the firm’s equal opportunities policy and its bullying and harassment policies etc, which may put you in a better position to argue the reasonable steps defence.

In addition to the above, which are now considered the basic minimum steps to take, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued detailed guidance on sexual harassment and other forms of harassment at work, to help employers understand best practice for effective prevention. Below are just some of the suggestions that employers should follow:

  • Mmonitor and review the success of the policies you implement;
  • Publish different policies to deal with sexual harassment and harassment related to protected characteristics or have one policy which clearly distinguishes between the different forms of harassment;
  • Ensure that all workers are aware of the anti-harassment policies;
  • Consider publishing these policies on your external-facing website, enabling workers to access a copy of the policy if they are off work with stress and allow other workers, such as contract workers, to view them;
  • Verbally communicate the policies to workers during the induction process and provide a copy;
  • Send reminders to staff ahead of key events where the risk of harassment increases, such as an office party;
  • Provide an annual reminder to staff;
  • Share the policies with other organisations that supply workers and services to ensure that all workers supplied to the firm are aware of the standards expected of them under the policies and how to report instances of harassment;
  • Undertake staff surveys which ask all workers’ questions on an anonymised basis to obtain as accurate a picture of harassment that is happening in the workplace as possible and whether they believe there are any steps the employer should be taking to address harassment at work; and
  • Only use confidentiality agreements (confidentiality clauses, NDAs, or gagging clauses) where it is lawful. It will not be lawful to use confidentiality agreements to prevent workers from whistleblowing, reporting a criminal offence or doing anything required by law such as complying with a regulatory duty.

If you would like to discuss your company’s online anti-harassment training, please contact the Trivium London Consulting team

Government response to consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace
Sexual harassment and harassment at work – Equality and Human Rights Commission