The act goes further than existing obligations under law by introducing a duty on employers to take “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of their employees. It also gives the Employment Tribunal the power to “uplift” sexual harassment compensation by up to 25 percent, should an employer be found to have breached this new duty.

Quick Hits

  • The UK Parliament recently announced that the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) bill received Royal Assent.
  • The new law imposes a duty on employers to take “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of their employees
  • The act is expected to take effect 12 months after the date it received Royal Assent.

The “reasonable steps” requirement test may be met by requiring employees to complete internal sexual harassment training, as well as by introducing (or strengthening) anti-harassment policies within the workplace. What will be considered reasonable will be fact specific and will depend on the size of the employer and its resources. Therefore, prior to the act taking effect, employers may want to consider making their anti-harassment policies and internal training more robust and bespoke to the nature of their businesses, as these will be factors the Employment Tribunal will consider when awarding compensation.

The act is expected to take effect 12 months after the date it received Royal Assent, which will give the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) time to prepare a new statutory code of practice on sexual harassment in the workplace. This new code will set out steps employers should take to prevent this type of behaviour in the workplace and will also be considered by the Employment Tribunal when awarding compensation.  

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the Cross Border blog.

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