Duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment

The Government has announced it will introduce a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and consider extending the time limit for claims under the Equality Act 2010 from three to six months.

There will also be explicit protections from third-party harassment.The measures are in response to the consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace, which ran from July to October 2019.

A government statement says that consultees highlighted the complexity of introducing protections from third-party harassment without the need for an incident to have occurred but were generally supportive of employers being able to use the defence of having taken all ‘reasonable steps’, which already exists in the Act.

On extending the protections under the Act to volunteers and interns, ministers believe that many of the latter group would already be protected, and that extending protections to the former could have undesirable consequences.

The statement says: “We recognise the impact that extending time limits could have for those bringing sexual harassment cases and that 3 months can be a short timeframe.

“Therefore, we will look closely at extending the time limit for bringing Equality Act 2010 based cases to the employment tribunal from 3 months to 6 months.

“Those which require legislative changes will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

“This package of measures will not only strengthen protections for those affected by harassment at work but will also motivate employers to make improvements to workplace practices and culture, which will benefit all employees.”

Please contact us for more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.