A Bill which seeks to protect employees from sexual harassment has reached the final stages and received Royal Assent. The new obligations are expected to come into effect in Autumn 2024.
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2024 will introduce a new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the workplace. It will also give employment tribunals the power to increase compensation by up to 25% if an employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.
The Bill’s initial proposal had been for employers to be required to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of employees in the course of the employment was later amended to “reasonable steps”. However, it remains a hugely important duty for employers to ensure that reasonable steps are taken.
The Bill has also been narrowed since its original proposal in respect of the removal of employer liability for third party harassment. This means that the law in this area will remain the same and employers will not be liable for third party harassment, unless their failure to protect an employee is related to a protected characteristic.
Although the Bill has undergone amendments since it was originally proposed, it will strengthen existing protections for employees. It is hoped that once the new Bill has been enacted in law, that it will “send a strong signal to employers that they need to take action to prioritise prevention of sexual harassment and ultimately improve workplace practices and cultures”.
With the new obligations for employers expected to come into force in Autumn 2024, employers should be mindful to revisit their anti-harassment practices, ensuring that appropriate and reasonable steps will be taken to address sexual harassment in the workplace.