Government Equalities Office consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace – Law Society response

The proposals

The government has asked for evidence about whether the current laws on protecting people from sexual harassment in the workplace are effective.

They want to find out:

  • how best to make sure employers take all the steps they can to prevent harassment from happening
  • strengthening and clarifying the law so it’s clear employers should protect their staff from being harassed by clients, customers, or other people from outside their organisation
  • whether interns and volunteers are adequately protected by current laws
  • whether people should be given longer to take a harassment, discrimination or victimisation claim to an Employment Tribunal

Our view

We support the proposal for a new duty to prevent harassment. Creating a preventative duty would provide a clear and unambiguous message that employers have a positive duty to provide a work space free from harassment.

From a moral point of view, it's obvious that it's unhealthy to allow an environment where harassment is tolerated.

We also agree that dual enforcement of the duty should be the best way to ensure compliance. However, for dual enforcement to be effective the two separate roles the EHRC and individuals need to be clearly understood.

This duty should apply to all those in the workspace.

The focus should be on the act or acts in question, rather than the employment or other status of the potential victim.

What this means for solicitors

The consultation closed on 2 October.

Once all the responses have been considered, the Government Equalities Office will publish their response, including recommendations for further action.

View the consultation on the GOV.UK website