20 December 2018 #Employment
Today, the Government has announced that it will introduce a new statutory code of practice which places greater responsibility on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and to act robustly when sexual harassment does occur.
The announcement is particularly timely in the midst of Christmas party season, in which employers liability to protect staff from sexual harassment and misconduct extends to such events, as we blogged about earlier this month. The new code is a welcome reflection of the prevalence of #MeToo campaign, which has brought sexual harassment and the prevention of it, into the spotlight.
As well as the code of practice, the government has said that it will carry out awareness raising work with employers and ACAS on how to address and prevent sexual harassment at work. The government will also consult on whether further legal protections are needed for interns and volunteers, recognising this vulnerable category of people in the workplace.
The government will also consult on non-disclosure agreements (often referred to in the media as “gagging agreements”) which can prevent victims from reporting abuse if signed.
Consultation is also expected to take place on extending employment tribunal time limits for sexual harassment and other Equality Act 2010 cases. This would provide victims with more time to bring a claim for historic abuse, showing a recognition of the difficulty that victims can face in coming forward.
A BBC Commissioning Research survey conducted in 2017 found that 40% of women and 18% of men had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The government has said it will commission its own survey to gather regular data on the prevalence of sexual harassment and it is hoped that the new code of practice and other measures announced today will aid in bringing these percentages down for the future.