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Government to place duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment

August 18th 2021

The Government has announced it will introduce a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and consider extending the time limit for claims under the Equality Act 2010 from three to six months.

Joanne Stronach Head of Employment & HR provides an update.

There will also be explicit protections from third-party harassment.

The measures are in response to the consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace, which ran from July to October 2019.

A government statement says the main findings of the consultation were that many people and companies were supportive of a new duty to prevent harassment and believed that it would prompt employers to take positive steps.

Consultees highlighted the complexity of introducing protections from third-party harassment without the need for an incident to have occurred but were generally supportive of employers being able to use the defence of having taken all ‘reasonable steps’, which already exists in the Act.

On extending the protections under the Act to volunteers and interns, ministers believe that many of the latter group would already be protected, and that extending protections to the former could have undesirable consequences.

The statement says: “We recognise the impact that extending time limits could have for those bringing sexual harassment cases and that 3 months can be a short timeframe.

“Therefore, we will look closely at extending the time limit for bringing Equality Act 2010 based cases to the employment tribunal from 3 months to 6 months. All of the commitments made as a result of this consultation will apply to Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).

“Those which require legislative changes will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

“This package of measures will not only strengthen protections for those affected by harassment at work but will also motivate employers to make improvements to workplace practices and culture, which will benefit all employees.”

We shall keep clients informed of developments.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Joanne on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

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