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New Worker Protection Bill: Employers have to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment

James Rowland

James Rowland

Commercial Director

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Worker Protection Bill: What UK Employers Need to Know

The Worker Protection Bill Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill has now received Royal Assent and is due to come into force in 2024.

It brings some important changes to the rules about preventing sexual harassment at work marking a pivotal moment for the UK’s employment landscape.

Here’s a simple breakdown of what UK employers should know:

Main Changes to the Rules

  1. A Bigger Role for Employers
    Employers now have a proactive and preventative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees during work.

  2. Bigger Penalties for Not Following Rules
    Employers who fail to take the necessary reasonable steps to safeguard their employees from sexual harassment now risk facing an uplift in compensation of up to 25%.
    This provision has been included to motivate employers to tackle the issue of sexual harassment more proactively and effectively.

How Can Employers Get Ready?

Subject Access Request (SAR) Support​

1. Check and Update Your Rules

Thoroughly examine all existing policies related to harassment, bullying, and equal opportunity. These policies should be updated to encompass training on various harassment scenarios, with a specific focus on third-party harassment. They should also provide clear guidance on how to support victims and intervene when necessary.

How Good Leadership Training Can Help 

2. Make Reporting Easy

Make sure your workers know how and where to report harassment. They should feel safe and confident doing this. It's crucial to have clear and accessible reporting mechanisms in place. This ensures that employees can confidently and safely report any instances of harassment they experience or witness.

The 48 Hour Week Opt-Out

3. Know the Risks

Every workplace is unique, and so are its associated risks. Employers should identify potential harassment risks that are specific to various roles and situations. Special attention should be given to roles that frequently interact with third parties or those which operate in isolated settings. Engage with employees or their representatives to gain insights on potential control measures.

How Ergonomic Policies Can Help

4. Keep a Record

Employers should have a dedicated system or register for logging harassment incidents. This system should be in compliance with data protection standards and storage requirements.

"As a lawyer specialising in employment law, I cannot stress enough the significance of the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill. It's not just about legal compliance; it's about setting the tone for a just, fair, and inclusive workplace. The bill amplifies existing protections and places a proactive duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment in the workplace. What constitutes "reasonable steps” will depend on factors like the size of the workforce and the specific industry or sector. Therefore, it's essential for employers to carefully consider the necessary measures to be implemented, it's not enough to react to issues; the onus is on employers to prevent them in the first place."

Bobby Ahmed

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