Set up by Parliament to help safeguard and enforce those laws which protect our rights to fairness, dignity and respect, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (or “EHRC”) has produced a report called Turning the tables: Ending sexual harassment at work.
Having gathered evidence from approximately 1,000 individuals and employers between December 2017 and February 2018 the report sets out recommendations which are aimed at:
- Transforming workplace cultures;
- Promoting transparency; and
- Strengthening legal protections.
Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the intention or effect of violating a person’s dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim. Whether it does so depends on the victim’s perspective and whether their reaction is reasonable in all the circumstances.
The report sets out a series of recommendations, including but not limited to:
- Introducing a mandatory duty on employers to take reasonable steps to protect workers from harassment and victimisation in the workplace.
- Introducing a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work, specifying the steps that employers should take to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, and which can be considered in evidence when determining whether the mandatory duty has been breached.
- Giving Employment Tribunals the power to apply an uplift to compensation in harassment claims of up to 25 per cent, at their discretion, for breach of mandatory elements of the statutory code.
- ACAS should develop targeted sexual harassment training for managers, staff and workplace sexual harassment ‘champions’.
- The UK Government should, drawing on learning from established online reporting mechanisms, develop an online tool which addresses the barriers identified [in the report] and facilitates the reporting of sexual harassment at work.
- The statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work should, subject to consultation on the code, set out [amongst other things] the circumstances in which confidentiality clauses preventing disclosure of past acts of harassment will be void.
- The limitation period for harassment claims in an Employment Tribunal should be amended to six months from the latest of the date of: (i) the act of harassment; (ii) the last in a series of incidents of harassment, or (iii) the exhaustion of any internal complaints procedure.
- Restoring the power, under section 124 of the Equality Act 2010, of Employment Tribunals to make recommendations aimed at reducing the adverse effects of discrimination on the wider workforce.
The report makes interesting reading. For example, in recommending a new statutory code with a 25% per cent uplift it raises questions as to how the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures is currently being used, or not used, by victims of sexual harassment. A full copy of the report is available online at here.