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Consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Government Response

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The government has published its consultation response on sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The consultation was undertaken in response to recent public disclosures by a number of (mainly) women of their experiences of workplace sexual harassment. These indicate that there is still a real, worrying problem that the law is failing to address.

The headline to the consultation response is the proposal to introduce a new positive duty upon employers to take 'all reasonable steps' to prevent workplace sexual harassment. The new duty would be enforceable by both the EHRC and by individual employees with employers potentially liable if they do not take reasonable steps to prevent harassment in accordance with a statutory code of practice. It would be enforceable after a sex harassment incident but also without the need for any incident to take place.

The response also makes more hesitant proposals to reform sexual harassment law in other areas:

- the introduction of workplace protections against third party harassment;

- confirmation that more transient roles including volunteers and interns have legal protection;

- the extension of the time limit to bring employment tribunal discrimination claims from three months to six months.

These proposals are heavily caveated and appear unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Thanks to Mark Alaszewski of didlaw for preparing this case summary.