The UK government is making significant changes to workplace discrimination laws with the introduction of the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill which is now set to become law.
This Bill represents a major update to the Equality Act. It places a proactive duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment of their employees, even by third parties, with the possibility of increased compensation if they fail to do so. Therefore, employers not already doing so, will need to take preventive action and not simply do nothing or turn a blind eye.
The Bill aims to make three key amendments to the Equality Act 2010:
Proactive Duty on Employers: Employers must take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of employees during their work. This extends protection to cover harassment by third parties. Employers may need to provide training on harassment and have relevant policies in place. Protection Against Harassment by Third Parties: The Bill removes the "three-strikes rule," making it easier to take action against third-party harassment. Compensation Increase: If employers fail to take reasonable steps to protect employees from sexual harassment, they may face a compensation increase of up to 25%. This aims to encourage employers to address sexual harassment more effectively.
Here are some steps employers need to take in order to prepare in advance of the new changes:
Review policies: Examine existing harassment, bullying, equal opportunity, and relevant policies. Update them to include training on different harassment scenarios, including third-party harassment, and provide guidance on intervention and support for victims. Establish reporting lines: Ensure clear reporting mechanisms so that employees can report harassment confidently and safely. Identify risks: Identify harassment risks based on specific roles and circumstances. Consult employees for their input on potential control measures such as personal safety apps. Incident reporting: Create or update records for reporting harassment incidents, adhering to data protection and storage requirements.