In its new report Turning the tables: ending sexual harassment at work, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission raises serious concern about sexual harassment in the workplace. It identifies widespread failures by employers to set out policies on sexual harassment in sufficient detail, support victims, provide for fair and effective grievance processes, ensure complainants will not be victimised for their complaints.
The EHRC sets out numerous recommendations under ten headlines in a call to the government to take action, most notably:
- the introduction of a statutory code of practice, with tribunal discretion to increase compensation by up to 25% where the code is not followed;
- legislation to render void contractual clauses prohibiting disclosure of future acts of discrimination, harassment or victimisation;
- safeguards to restrict the use of confidentiality clauses to prevent disclosure of past acts of harassment;
- extension of the limitation period for bringing a sexual harassment claim to six months from the latest of (i) the act; (ii) the last in a series of acts; or (iii) exhaustion of any internal complaints procedure;
- a shift of burden to the employer to show why time should not be extended for any out of time claim where the claimant establishes the reason for the delay;
- interim relief protection similar to that for protected disclosure dismissals;
- restoration of the power to make recommendations;
- reinstatement of protection from third party harassment though without the requirement to show two previous incidents; and
- reintroduction of the statutory questionnaire.
Thanks to Jason Braier of Field Court Chambers for preparing this case summary.