On 25 July 2018 the Women and Equalities Committee published its report and five point plan to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. This follows increasing pressure for focus on stamping out sexual harassment following the Weinstein scandal, #metoo campaign and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report ‘Turning the tables: ending sexual harassment at work’ (March 2018).
The five steps are:
- Both employers and regulators should be putting sexual harassment at the top of their agenda and there should be a positive duty on employers to protect workers.
- Regulatory bodies should take a more active role in protecting workers. The government should require regulators such as the HSE, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, Ofsted and the Financial Conduct Authority to introduce action plans and sanctions.
- Enforcement should be easier for employees. For example, it proposed that there should be a statutory code of practice making clear what employers should do and how to introduce clear reporting systems and guidance for victims. Some of the barriers to bringing employment tribunal claims should be lowered, for example, increasing the time limit for bringing sexual harassment claims.
- The use of non-disclosure agreements should be better controlled and it should be a criminal offence for an employer to use a confidentiality clause designed to prevent a protected disclosure.
- Data should be collected to find out the extent of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Many of the recommendations are not ‘new’ to employment lawyers. They bring back memories of the statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures and third party harassment provisions, both of which were eventually scrapped.
Therefore, it remains to be seen to what extent these measures will be implemented and, if they are, how useful they will be. However, it is certainly a positive step that a spotlight is being shone on this area and highlights that employers need to act proactively to protect their employees.