Consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

25 July 2019


The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has published a consultation which aims to gather evidence about whether the current laws on protecting people from sexual harassment in the workplace are effective.


Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that makes you feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. The Equality Act 2010 says that employers are legally responsible if an employee is sexually harassed at work by another employee, and the employer had not taken all steps they could to prevent it from happening.


The Government is looking at whether the current laws on this issue provide the protections they’re supposed to; considering whether there are any gaps and thinking about what more can be done at a practical level to ensure people are properly protected at work.


To help with this, the government want to understand people’s experiences, focussing on some particular issues it might be able to tackle through changes to the law:


  • How best to make sure employers take all the steps they can to prevent harassment from happening

  • Strengthening and clarifying the law so it’s clear employers should protect their staff from being harassed by clients, customers, or other people from outside their organisation

  • Whether interns and volunteers are adequately protected by current laws

  • Whether people should be given longer to take a harassment, discrimination or victimisation claim to an Employment Tribunal

 The consultation is split into two parts:


  • A set of online questions that are quick and easy for anyone to respond to

  • A more technical document that invites views on the details of the law

Both look at the same issues with a different level of detail.


The closing date for responses is 2 October 2019.


Confidentiality clauses

Within the wider concerns about sexual harassment, a number of more focussed issues have also emerged.  In March BEIS published a consultation putting forward proposals to help put an end to the unethical use of confidentiality clauses (often referred to as non-disclosure agreements/NDAs). The Government has recently published its response to the consultation and will be legislating so that limitations in confidentiality clauses or NDAs are clearly set out in employment contracts and settlement agreements on measures to prevent misuse in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination. See our News item (25 July) for full details.