The UK government has published its response to the consultation on workplace sexual harassment, launched in 2019. The response confirms that the government will introduce a new duty for employers to prevent sexual harassment and third-party harassment in the workplace, and that it will look closely at the possibility of extending the time limit for all claims under the Equality Act 2010 from 3 to 6 months. There will also be a new statutory Code of Practice to be published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
A new legal duty to prevent harassment in the workplace is likely to prompt employers to prioritise the prevention of harassment. The statutory Code of Practice will help employers understand their existing duties in this area and whether they have taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent harassment. The government has also promised that it will produce accessible guidance for employers which will outline what practical steps they can take.
There is no firm date as to when these reforms will be made law. The government has said that the duty to prevent sexual harassment in work will be introduced “as soon as” parliamentary time allows. It is possible that the duty to prevent third party harassment will be introduced at a slightly later date. No timescale has been given for the EHRC’s statutory Code of Practice or possible extension of time limits for claims.