New guidance on sexual harassment and harassment at work
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published new technical guidance on sexual harassment and harassment at work. It replaces previous guidance published in December 2017.
The new guidance explains employers’ legal responsibilities and the practical steps they should take to prevent and respond to harassment and victimisation at work. It also provides advice for workers to help them understand the law and their employer’s obligations to prevent harassment and victimisation, or to respond to their complaint.
The guidance sets out the different forms that harassment and victimisation can take under the Equality Act 2010 and reiterates that certain types of behaviour, such as physical gestures, jokes or pranks, banter and physical behaviour towards a person or their property, can amount to harassment or sexual harassment even if that is not how it was intended by the perpetrator.
Finally, the guidance provides employment tribunals and courts with clear direction on the law and best practice steps that employers could take to prevent and deal with harassment and victimisation. It is expected to become a statutory code of practice in due course.
Alongside the technical guidance, the EHRC has published seven steps every employer should consider taking to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent and deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. These are:
1. Developing an effective anti-harassment policy
2. Engaging staff with regular one-to-ones and having an open-door policy
3. Assessing and mitigating risks in the workplace
4. Considering using a reporting system that allows workers to raise an issue anonymously or in name
5. Training staff on what sexual harassment in the workplace looks like, what to do if workers experience it and how to handle complaints
6. Acting immediately when a harassment complaint is made
7. Treating harassment by a third party just as seriously as that by a work colleague.