Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
New guidance calls for employers to step up and protect staff from harassment
As the Equality Act enters its second decade, employers are being given support in protecting their workforces in the shape of new guidance published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
In a letter to leading employers and industry groups, our chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, reminded executives their employees must come to work knowing they will be safe and protected from discrimination, victimisation and harassment of any kind.
The new guidance explains employers’ legal responsibilities and the practical steps they should take to prevent and respond to harassment and victimisation at work. It also provides advice for workers to help them understand the law and their employer’s obligations to prevent harassment and victimisation, or to respond to their complaint.
Building on the findings and recommendations from our Turning the tables report, our new guidance has drawn from a wide range of experiences of harassment and expertise from a variety of individuals and employers to develop solutions that can be used in any workplace and against any form of harassment.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, yesterday said:
“It is time for all employers to step up action against misconduct and protect their staff from harassment. It’s been two years since #MeToo forced sexual harassment to the top of the agenda. We’ve seen some employers wake up, take this on board and start to make the differences which will transform working environments and boost the economy through empowering people to reach their potential. But we need others to follow suit. The issue is not going to go away and if we are going to create working environments where no one is ever made to feel unsafe or threatened, then we need a dramatic shift in workplace cultures.
“No form of harassment can ever be justified and for too long the onus has been on the victim to challenge inappropriate treatment. By setting out legal requirements and providing practical examples on preventing and responding to harassment, we hope that our guidance will shift the burden back on to employers.”
Our guidance explains the different forms that harassment and victimisation can take under the Equality Act. It also reiterates that certain types of behaviour such as physical gestures, jokes or pranks, banter and physical behaviour towards a person or their property, can amount to harassment or sexual harassment even if that is not how it was intended by the perpetrator.
The technical guidance provides employment tribunals and courts with clear direction on the law and best practice steps that employers could take to prevent and deal with harassment and victimisation. It is expected to become a statutory code of practice in due course.
Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair, TIME’S UP UK, yesterday said:
“We are hugely supportive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s new Sexual Harassment Guidance report which will go a long way to ensuring employers, workers and their representatives understand the extent and impact of harassment in the workplace, the law in this area and best practice for effective prevention and response. At TIME’S UP we have been able to use our voice to highlight the fact that sexual harassment is pervasive and we are dedicated to finding ways to ensure women find safety, justice and equality.”
Alongside the technical guidance, we have published seven steps every employer should consider taking to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent and deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Develop an effective anti-harassment policy
- Engage staff with regular one-to-ones and have an open door policy
- Assess and mitigate risks in the workplace
- Consider using a reporting system that allows workers to raise an issue anonymously or in name
- Train staff on what sexual harassment in the workplace looks like, what to do if workers experience it and how to handle complaints
- Act immediately when a harassment complaint is made
- Treat harassment by a third-party just as seriously as that by a colleague
Press contact details
For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:
0161 829 8102
07767 272 818 (out of hours)
Latest News from
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
East of England Ambulance Service Trust signs legal agreement to protect staff from sexual harassment28/04/2021 13:25:00
East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has signed a legally binding agreement with us after it failed to take necessary steps to protect staff from sexual harassment.
EHRC statement on Covid status certification review15/04/2021 11:10:00
A spokesperson from the Equality and Human Rights Commission commented on the Covid status certification review.
Open letter to the Prime Minister from Runnymede Trust: Our letter to Dr Halima Begum12/04/2021 15:10:00
Our Chair, Baroness Falkner, has written to Dr Halima Begum, Chief Executive of Runnymede Trust, in response to comments made in a recent open letter to the Prime Minister regarding the independence and impact of EHRC.
Equality regulator warns against blanket ‘no mask, no entry’ policies12/04/2021 10:25:00
As lockdown eases and businesses look forward to re-opening, we are reminding organisations against blanket policies barring people from accessing services without a facemask.
EHRC Chair responds to report from Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities31/03/2021 15:05:00
Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, responds to a report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.
Equality body responds to publication of landmark human rights report15/03/2021 12:20:00
Alastair Pringle, Executive Director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, responds to the report from the National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership which has published recommendations on incorporating international human rights treaties into Scots law.
Regulators join forces to safeguard rights of people in health and social care09/03/2021 10:25:00
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Care Quality Commission (CQC) have joined together to further safeguard the rights of people who use or work in health and social care services in England.
Pontins owner signs legal agreement to prevent race discrimination02/03/2021 12:10:00
EHRC have signed a legally binding agreement with Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited to prevent racial discrimination after they became aware of discriminatory practices, including an ‘undesirable guest list’, being used by the organisation.