It is always beneficial for employers to stay up to date with guidance regarding both sexual harassment and other forms of harassment at work. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission have released new recommendations in this regard and whilst this guidance is not a statutory code of practice, it shouldn’t be overlooked. The guide they have produced was published in January 2020 and is described as the authoritative and comprehensive guide to the law and best practice meaning, it can be considered by an Employment Tribunal in relevant cases.
What the guide contains
The new EHRC guidance automatically establishes the legal framework of sexual harassment at work. It examines both the scale and effect of sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in the workplace such as on the grounds of sexual orientation, race, religion or age and disability. It then goes on to recall the legal meanings of harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation before addressing issues such as who is protected and who can be liable for harassment. For employers, the guide is especially beneficial to read as it also addresses tricky legal issues such as harassment by third parties and harassment by a colleague outside of the workplace.
Not only does it clearly lay out everything mentioned above but, it also explores the practical steps employers should take to prevent and respond to harassment. Interestingly, the guidance recommends having separate policies for sexual harassment and other forms of harassment. But, helpfully, it also includes a checklist of the kinds of things a good anti-sexual harassment policy should cover. The EHRC guide also goes on to speak about detecting harassment and how employers should proactively seek to be aware of what is happening in the workplace. It informs employers of warning signs that harassment is taking place, beyond informal and formal complaints. Furthermore, it also provides employers with ways they can provide workers with the opportunity to raise issues with them, even where there are no warning signs of harassment.
Lastly, the EHRC discusses how all employers should respond to harassment both including both informal and formal resolutions. Much of this discussion rehearses the key principles of a fair process that employers should already be familiar with. In this section, they also address what to do if the harassment amounts to a criminal offence, how to prevent further harassment during an investigation and steps to be taken at the end of the process. Interestingly, the guidance looks at how employers should handle requests by the victim not to take action. This is a very important issue that is more common than you may initially realise and should always be handled correctly.
All in all, the new EHRC guidance on sexual harassment covers all of the basics that employers really should be aware of. Although the new guidance does not have statutory force, at 82 pages it is certainly comprehensive and it is highly recommended that all employers take the time to refresh their knowledge and educate themselves further in this regard.
What employers should do
Ultimately, all employers should review the EHRC guidance on sexual harassment to enable them to update their existing skills. They should then go on to benchmark anti-harassment policies and procedures against these new recommendations. Employers may find that they need to update their policies and if so, this then needs to be highlighted to employees. The aim of this is to avoid vicarious liability for harassment carried out by employees.
About Nationwide Employment Lawyers
If you require additional information regarding sexual harassment in the workplace or any assistance with sexual harassment claims that are being made at your business premises, Nationwide Employment Lawyers can help. As a firm, we have up to twenty years of experience in employment law with expertise in claims of bullying and harassment. We will be able to advise you as and when required and provide support through any legal proceedings. Our team understands how stressful and time-consuming it can be dealing with an employment law issue or an Employment Tribunal claim, so we are here to help you by shouldering the burden.