With significant changes to the Equality Act 2010 set to take effect in October 2024, employers must understand their new responsibilities in preventing workplace harassment.

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023, which received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023, will:

  • Introduce a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees.

  • Give employment tribunals the power to uplift sexual harassment compensation by up to 25% where an employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) Sexual Harassment and Harassment in the Workplace Guidance will be updated to reflect the incoming duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.  Following consultation over summer 2024, the EHRC intends to publish revised Technical Guidance in September 2024.

Employers should begin taking steps now to prepare for the changes, including:

  • Promote a positive workplace culture. Leaders and managers should be encouraged to model respectful behaviour and address issues in a timely manner.  Steps should be taken to implement an inclusive environment where diversity is respected and valued.

  • Establish robust reporting mechanisms which should include assuring staff that any complaints will be handled sensitively and confidentially and that there is a commitment to conducting prompt and thorough investigations of all complaints.

  • Create open channels for employee feedback and concerns beyond harassment issues.

  • Conduct an audit of the culture of your business to identify any risks of harassment either by staff or third parties and consider methods of mitigating any highlighted risks. Consideration could be given to conducting an anonymous staff survey.

  • Review your training needs. Do staff need to attend an updated refresher diversity course? Do management staff need training on how to manage any complaints and conduct any investigations?

  • Update your current policies in your staff handbook that deal with harassment, bullying and equal opportunities. Should a new standalone sexual harassment policy be introduced?

Employers are encouraged to act now to review their policies and practices to ensure they are ready to meet the new law. By taking the steps outlined, employers can create a safer, more respectful workplace and mitigate the risks associated with sexual harassment claims.

If you require advice on any of the points mentioned above, please contact Farleys’ employment law specialists on 0845 287 0939 or get in touch by email through our online contact form.