Following the 2018 Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) report on sexual harassment in the workplace, the Government committed to consult further. The consultation ran from 11 July to 2 October 2019 and their response was published on 21 July 2021. A new employer duty is outlined to take effect and although it is not clear yet when, it is anticipated that the draft legislation will be prepared sometime this year.
The consultation was designed to explore:
- the evidence for the introduction of a mandatory duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and victimisation in the workplace
- how best to strengthen and clarify the laws in relation to third-party harassment
- whether interns are adequately protected by the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) and the evidence for extending the protections of the Act to volunteers.
- the views of stakeholders on extending employment tribunal time limits in the Act from 3 months
- time limits for bringing claims under the Equality Act may increase from three to six months;
- protections for employees against third-party harassment may be reintroduced;
- updating/implementing anti-harassment policies and procedures needs to be a priority for employers;
- employers must address and improve workplace practices and culture to prevent acts of harassment and discrimination;
- carefully tailored and effective training sessions for employees should be the minimum;
- complaints of harassment should be taken seriously, investigated and addressed in accordance with the workplace policy and procedures; and
- overall, it is imperative that employers take positive steps to prevent harassment rather than dealing with the issue after the event.