Preventing Sexual Harassment and Protecting Your Business

Posted 24/09/2019

The law covering sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace is now primarily to be found in the provisions of the Equality Act 2010. This can be a potentially complex area of law; early advice is recommended if concerned your business is not taking all appropriate measures to protect employees and indeed the reputation of the business itself.

Guidance on best practise is provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Examples of steps an employer should take are detailed below.

Vicarious Liability

As well as ensuring a safe and non-hostile working environment, employers can take steps to minimise the risk that they will be found liable for the acts of their employees. Under the Equality Act 2010 employers are “prima facie” liable for sexual harassment committed by their employees during the course of their employment. This is regardless of whether the employee’s acts were done with the employer’s knowledge or approval. This is known as vicarious liability.

However, an employer can take steps to reduce the risk of being held vicariously liable if it can demonstrate that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment.

What constitutes “reasonable steps”?

Effective Equality and Diversity (Anti-Harassment) Policy.

It is recommended this should contain:

  • Commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment
  • A statement that sexual harassment is unlawful
  • A clear definition of sexual harassment with examples
  • A clear reporting procedure to report acts of harassment
  • Clear disciplinary policy covering this area.Staff Training An employer must demonstrate that, in addition to having such policies, they are followed and implemented where appropriate. If an employer can demonstrate that the above steps have been undertaken, it may succeed in defending a sexual harassment claim by establishing a “reasonable steps defence” under the Act. If you require advice about this or any other employment law issue, please contact David Dixey on 01376 320456 or
  • Prompt and Thorough Investigation of Complaints
  • Guidance recommends regular training of all staff, including managers and supervisors, in respect of equal opportunities and harassment issues.

David Dixey

Posted 24/09/2019 by:
David Dixey
Senior Chartered Legal Executive in Litigation & Employment Teams

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