Government plans statutory code of practice on sexual harassment in the workplace
The government has announced it will work towards a new statutory code of practice on sexual harassment. The code will be designed to combat the alleged failure of employers to take preventative responsibilities seriously.
The government intends to work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Acas to develop a code that makes it clear what actions an employer must take to fulfil their legal responsibilities. Evidence of code violations will be eligible for use in legal proceedings and employment tribunals. Among other measures, the government will gather data on the prevalence of sexual harassment at least every three years and will consult on strengthening laws affecting harassment involving third parties. It will also monitor its use to determine whether further action was required.
The announcement follows recommendations by the Commons’ Women and Equalities Select Committee to place a mandatory duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and bullying.
The commitments were welcomed by Women and Equalities Select Committee chair and MP Maria Miller. However she was critical of the speed of the government response and that it had “missed the opportunity to place a greater onus on employers to protect workers from harassment and to increase sanctions for poor practice” She added “Just keeping an eye on how employment tribunals respond to the new code is inadequate”