The continuing media focus on sexual harassment claims has highlighted an issue which poses a significant challenge for all employers, to ensure there is clarity over what behaviours are unacceptable and that employees both feel safe to report concerns and confident that complaints will be dealt with fairly and appropriately.
In early December the Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to the chairs of FTSE 100 companies and other leading organisations to warn that they face enforcement action (which could include a formal investigation) where there is evidence of systemic failing in preventing, or dealing with, sexual harassment. Organisations have been asked to supply evidence by 19 January 2018 of the safeguards they have in place to prevent sexual harassment and to ensure that it can be safely reported without fear of retribution, and how they plan to prevent harassment in the future.
The EHRC has produced legal guidance to help businesses understand the law better, available here. It is also carrying out a survey asking people who have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment to submit their thoughts on what changes they think need to be made to tackle this issue, again by 19 January. The EHRC will produce a report in early 2018, highlighting best practice and proposing recommendations for reform.
Acas has published new guidance on sexual harassment, here.
Finally, the CBI has also urged business leaders to help stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace, recommending clear processes for employees to report concerns over sexual harassment in confidence and without fear, codes of conduct about what is and is not acceptable behaviour and ensuring everyone understands them, and continuing to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of their workforces at all levels, including the most senior.
Please do get in touch with your usual HSF contact if you are interested in our training for managers and/or staff on harassment or equal opportunities generally, or would like assistance in drafting or reviewing policies.