The current law on harassment, and in particular sexual harassment, provides that employers will be liable if an employee suffers sexual harassment in the workplace unless they can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment from occurring.
The consequences of failing to prevent harassment or to demonstrate reasonable steps have been taken to prevent it, are set to become more significant under changes proposed in the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill. The Bill, if passed, will place a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment i.e. unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.
Originally, the Bill also proposed to make employers liable for third-party harassment of their employees however this proposal has been abandoned during the Bill’s passage through the parliamentary process, leaving victims of such treatment with little or no protection.
Under the remaining provisions of the Bill, tribunals will have the discretion to award a ‘compensation uplift’ of up to 25% if employers are found to have breached their duty to take steps to prevent sexual harassment occurring.
As things stand currently the new duty will come into effect 12 months after the Act is passed into law, with much for businesses to do in the meantime to prepare for this new regime.
We will of course keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Bill please drop us a line below.