UPDATE: The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 banner


UPDATE: The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023

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This new piece of legislation, which is due to come into force from October of this year, will place a new duty on employers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent the sexual harassment of employees.

No specific examples of such steps have been outlined yet but the Equality and Human Rights Commission is believed to be working on a statutory code which will provide useful guidance on this in due course.

Although the Equality Act 2010 already provides for the prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace, the 2023 Act will seek to place a secondary, more proactive duty on employers alongside the protection afforded under the 2010 Act.

The 2023 Act will also award Tribunals a new power enabling them to uplift a compensatory award for sexual harassment by up to 25% if an employer is held to have breached its duty under the 2023 Act.

The original bill passed through parliament sought to impose a higher duty on employers, ensuring that their only defence would be to show that they took ‘all reasonable steps’ but this was eventually held to be too high a threshold to place on employers.

What does this mean for employers?
Although standalone claims cannot be brought under the 2023 Act, employers should take care when considering whether they are doing enough to protect their employees from sexual harassment as any sexual harassment claim that is upheld at Tribunal will then also give rise to a breach of this new duty.

As previously stated, no specific examples of ‘reasonable steps’ have been identified yet as to how employers might mitigate claims under the 2023 Act, however, examples of steps that could be taken could be; conducting a detailed review of the company policies and procedures, hosting regular training sessions for employees at all levels and making sure any complaints are taken seriously; ensuring the company is actively challenging any sexist or discriminatory behaviours in the workplace.

It is thought that this new duty on employers will act as a preventative, ultimately reducing the number of incidents and promoting a healthier, happier workplace.

If you have any questions about the implications of the 2023 Act on your business, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment team.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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