The Government announces a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work.
The Government says it will legislate to introduce a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment and create explicit protections from harassment by third parties.
The announcement comes following a consultation. The Government also says that it will support the Equality and Human Rights Commission to produce a statutory code of practice, alongside producing its own employer guidance. It will also look closely at extending the time limit for bringing Equality Act-based cases to tribunal to six months.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the announcement was “a victory for years of trade union campaigning – and for every single one of those survivors who shared their experiences of sexual harassment at work to bring about change”.
She added: “If this is to be a genuine turning point, the government must change the law swiftly, put more resources into enforcing the new duties, and make sure victims have access to justice.
“Ministers have taken an important first step – but they must keep up the momentum. Sexual harassment at work is rife and needs tackling now.”
The announcement came as a parliamentary report showed almost two thirds of women in the armed forces have experienced bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination during their career. The subcommittee on women in the armed forces said 64 percent of female veterans and 58 percent of currently-serving women [over 4,100 women in total] who gave evidence reported experiencing bullying, harassment and discrimination during their careers. Most did not report it and a third of those who did said the response was “extremely poor”.
The committee recommends that the Ministry of Defence create a specialised Defence Authority to handle such complaints and better resource the Service Complaints Ombudsman and make their decisions binding.
The report also finds serious problems with the military’s handling of sexual assault and harassment and urges it to remove cases of rape and sexual assault from military courts and the Service Justice System and hand them over to the civilian court system.