Coming into force from October 2024, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 (the Act) will place new obligations and responsibilities upon employers.

What is the new law?

The new law (s.40A of the Equality Act 2010) will impose a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the course of employment.

This has come about because the existing law has been considered insufficient to prevent workplace sexual harassment and the government wanted to impose a more proactive duty on employers to protect employees from sexual harassment. In other words, the bar for holding employers liable for workplace sexual harassment will be lowered.

What are reasonable steps?

The new law does not spell this out, but it is recommended that all employers take the following steps in the coming weeks and months:

  • Create a clear firm plan and progress report to show it is doing all it can to eliminate sexual harassment.
  • Implement a clear and regularly updated anti-harassment at work policy.
  • Carry out targeted risk assessments.
  • Create a clear and transparent reporting procedure for sexual harassment.
  • Implement mandatory training to all staff and tailored to different sections of employees: senior management, line managers, HR, and new joiners.

What are the consequences upon breach of this new duty?

The Employment Tribunal has discretion to enhance compensation by up to 25% if:

  • there is a finding that a sexual harassment has taken place; and
  • the Tribunal has awarded compensation; and
  • the Tribunal has additionally found that this new duty has been breached by the employer.

To help avoid sexual harassment claims, employers should be proactive and take all steps to ensure they are prepared for the Act coming into force.

If you have questions or concerns about how to prepare for the new duty, please contact Sungjin Park.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.