The Government has responded to the 2019 consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace and has confirmed that it will be introducing a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in order to “encourage employers into taking positive proactive steps to make the workplace safer for everyone”.
In addition, there will be new protections from third-party harassment and the government will also “look closely” at extending the current time limit for bringing sexual harassment claims under the Equality Act 2010 in the Employment Tribunal from three months to six months.
No significant detail on the extent of these changes has yet been given although we understand that the new duty on employers will require them to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent harassment, and for an incident to have taken place before an individual can make a claim. The duty to prevent sexual harassment and the new protections from third-party harassment will be introduced “when parliamentary time allows” and a statutory Code of Practice and further guidance for employers will also be published.
The 2019 consultation had also considered extending protection from sexual harassment to volunteers and interns. However, the Government has concluded that interns are likely to already be covered by the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 as either employees or workers, and that extending protection to volunteers could create a “disproportionate level of liability” and difficulties for the organisation in question.
We will keep you updated with further developments in this area.