Worker Protection Bill Recieves Royal Assent: Pressure on Employers To Create a Safe Workspace To Increase
On 26th October, the Worker Protection Bill received Royal Assent, among seven other bills, and will now become law. This bill was first introduced in June 2022 as a potential law that could protect employees from sexual harassment, by putting more pressure on the employers.
This is a huge win in the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace as a majority of women face harassment but not nearly as many come forward to report it. According to the TUC, three in five women have experienced sexual harassment or abuse at work in 2023.
What Does the New Law Say?
Harassment under the Equality Act 2010 is defined as when a person engages in unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic. The conduct should also:
- Violate their dignity, or,
- Create a hostile/offensive/degrading environment
The Equality Act also covers unwanted conduct of a sexual nature as well as unwanted conduct related to gender reassignment.
According to the Worker Protection Bill, employers will have to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent harassment (as defined in the Equality Act) at work. However, it is important to point out that this does not cover any other protected characteristic and is solely related to harassment of a sexual nature.
It is also important to remember that while this bill was introduced keeping in mind the female workforce, this law will be applicable to all genders and will aim to protect everyone from sexual harassment at work.
Third-Party Sexual Harassment and Reasonable Steps
Not all proposals made have been taken into consideration.
Initially, when the Worker Protection Bill was first introduced, there was a clause that held employers liable for third-party sexual harassment. However, one of the first amendments to be made to this bill was scrapping the third-party harassment clause. At present, employers will not be held liable for harassment by third parties, but it is still advisable for employers to assess the risk of it happening and prevent it.
The words ‘reasonable steps’ was initially ‘all’ reasonable steps; however, all has now been removed as well, leaving it as ‘reasonable steps’ only. There is no formal guidance on what reasonable is, but it is understood that it will relate to the circumstances of each case. It is likely that to determine what is reasonable, factors such as the grievance reporting procedures for dealing with sexual harassment at work will be assessed.
The law is set to come into effect in a year, i.e., 26 October 2024.
What are the Next Steps for Employers?
In order to comply with the Worker Protection Bill, it will be crucial for employers to reassess and evaluate their policies and procedures, to begin with. Understanding the culture of the workforce to see what the current state is and how many workers feel unsafe/are at risk is also equally important.
It will also help to re-introduce sexual harassment prevention workshops as well as strengthen anti-harassment policies. Since there is no definition of ‘reasonable’ and it can be interpreted however by an employment tribunal, it will benefit employers to tie up all possible loose ends when it comes to sexual harassment prevention.
A major concern for employees is being able to come forward to speak up about the incident, as many believe they would not get any help. Hence, employers may also want to introduce (or strengthen) policies that provide employees with a safe space to open up about it and report it on time.
Can Redmans Solicitors Help?
Certainly! Our employment law specialists are well-versed in all areas of employment law. If you have faced sexual harassment at work and are unable to get the help you need from your employer, take a look at our guide on sexual harassment or get in touch with us now. You can either:
You can find more information on the cases our employment law specialists have worked on here!