The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, has written a letter to employers outlining new guidance on dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace.
This latest advice is the organisation’s first major contribution to the issue since the Turning the Tables report (2018) recommended that employers should be legally accountable for preventing sexual harassment.
In addition to detailed technical arguments designed to help courts and tribunals decide whether plaintiffs have a legitimate case, the new guidance recommends a 7-step programme for tackling the problem:
- Invest time and resources in developing an effective anti-harassment policy
- Engage in action that minimises risks
- Consider developing anonymous reporting systems
- Train staff on what sexual harassment looks like, what they can do about it and how to report it
- Treat complaints seriously by taking immediate action
- Treat harassment by third-parties as seriously as that by a colleague
Hilsenrath said that ‘Recent high-profile cases have shone an important light on the continued harassment many women face in the workplace and showed that we still need to do more to modernise working cultures.
‘The issue is not going to go away and if we are going to create working environments where no one is ever made to feel unsafe or threatened, then we need a dramatic shift in workplace cultures.
‘No form of harassment can ever be justified and for too long the onus has been on the victim to challenge inappropriate treatment. By setting out legal requirements and providing practical examples on preventing and responding to harassment, we hope that our guidance will shift the burden back on to employers.’
A spokesperson for the Workers Union said: ‘We’re heartened to see that the EHRC has revisited this issue. Any attempt to shame, belittle, embarrass or engage in unwanted touching of another member of staff is a practice that has no place in society. It’s no longer acceptable to justify this behaviour by claiming it’s “banter” or appealing to “irony”. It’s cheap, it’s distressing, and it goes against everything we claim our modern, progressive world represents. We’d like to see protections from sexual harassment enshrined in a statutory code of practice that clearly sets out the obligations of employers and makes them aware of the penalties of non-compliance.’
Have you been a victim of sexual harassment at work? The Workers Union can help. If you’re already a member, get in touch with us here. If you want to find out more about the advantages of membership, then visit our why join page.
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