The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023, becoming the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023. The Act introduces a new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment at work. It will take effect on 26 October 2024.
In summary, the Act introduces a new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the workplace and gives employment tribunals the power to provide an uplift of up to 25% in compensation when an employer has failed to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.
The provisions of the final Act are significantly less onerous on employers than earlier proposals and drafts of the Bill. Rather than establishing a duty for employers to protect their employees against third party harassment on the basis of any protected characteristic, the Act now only establishes a duty in relation to sexual harassment, as defined under the Equality Act 2010.
Ahead of the new law becoming effective in October 2024, employers are advised to take proactive steps to ensure compliance. Relevant policies and procedures in relation to equal opportunities, harassment and bullying should be reviewed to ensure inclusion and explanation of the new rules. This could include providing examples within policies of harassment, as well as advice on how to assist employees complaining of harassment and how to intervene in the correct way. Training may also be required for both managers and employees to promote awareness of the changes.
Organisations should also ensure that that have in place a clear and secure process for employees to report harassment, and that those responsible for dealing with complaints are able to do so in a lawful and effective manner.
Record-keeping should also be reviewed to ensure effective logging of harassment complaints and to ensure compliance with data protection rules.
For advice on the implications of the new Act on your organisation, and how you can mitigate the legal risk of sexual harassment claims, contact us.
Last updated: 1 November 2023