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Organisations prioritising a positive workplace culture will inevitably stay one step ahead

15 January 2020
Staircase rush
Kirsty Rogers, Employment Partner and Lead Partner of DWF Responsibility at DWF, comments on The Equality and Human Rights Commission "technical guidance on sexual harassment and harassment at work" published today. 

The technical guidance on sexual harassment is a precursor to and the foundation of the anticipated statutory code of practice. The guidance sets out an invaluable step by step guidance for employers on their responsibility when dealing with harassment in the workplace. While it is not mandatory for employment tribunals to take it into account, it will most certainly be used in evidence as an indicator of good or bad practice. Organisations prioritising a positive workplace culture will inevitably stay one step ahead.

"The guidance sets out the severe economic consequences for employers failing to address sexual harassment in the workplace, including low morale, poor workforce relations, high levels of stress, reduced staff engagement, higher turnover of workers, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and damage to reputation. Additionally, it directly identifies the sheer scale of the problem and why preventative action is necessary. Prevention is always better than cure and clarity on what is not acceptable behaviour in the workplace, as well as the consequences for not adhering to standards, is fundamental. The spotlight is firmly on sexual harassment – this is a business-critical issue.

"The technical guidance allows us the opportunity to remind employers of the critical steps to take to help tackle harassment in the workplace. As expected, effective procedures, training and risk assessments are necessary. The guidance also focuses on an employer's duty to proactively make sure they are aware of harassment taking place. It encourages employers to consider anonymous reporting and provide every opportunity for employees to disclose any issue easily. This is an indication of the direction of travel - employers must take responsibility and be approachable, open. Commitment to action has to be authentic.   

"The third party harassment provisions were repealed from the Equality Act 2010, and there has been much debate as to the extent of employers' liability for this form of harassment. The guidance recognises third party harassment as an issue and advises employers to "take reasonable steps to prevent third-party harassment". The question of re-instating legislative third party harassment provisions is still subject to consultation. 

"Workplace culture is critical to the success of any business, and employers need to create an inclusive environment. The guidance provides welcome direction on how employers can take responsibility and comply with the law."

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