EHRC guidance on sexual harassment

Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty although he will appeal. More and more people are coming forward claiming sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers need to take this seriously a successful tribunal which can be launched on day1 of employment can result in an unlimited award. Having policies and carrying out regular training are essential when challenging these claims

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published guidance on harassment, with a large section on sexual harassment. The guidance provides definitions and examples of harassment, the effect that it can have in the workplace, responsibilities as an employer and how to prevent and respond to such harassment.

Three-quarters of people who responded to the EHRC’s survey reported experiencing sexual harassment at work, and nearly all of the people who had been sexually harassed were women. This, the EHRC reported, “largely reflects power imbalances based on gender and is part of a spectrum of disrespect and inequality that women face in the workplace and everyday life”.

The report lists the following as a barrier to reporting sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • the view that an employer would not take the issue seriously;
  • a belief that alleged harassers, particularly senior staff, would be protected;
  • a fear of victimisation; and
  • a lack of appropriate reporting procedures.

The EHRC additionally stated that a good anti-harassment policy has the potential to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace. The guidance provided the following tips on drafting a policy:

  • Confirm who the policy covers.
  • State that sexual harassment, harassment and victimisation will not be tolerated and can lead to disciplinary action.
  • Provide clear examples to illustrate each definition of the different forms of harassment.
  • Include an effective procedure for receiving and responding to complaints of harassment.
  • Include a commitment to review the policy at regular intervals and monitor its effectiveness.

Support for menopausal staff

Acas has published guidance on how employers can support menopausal staff and prevent a situation of sex discrimination. Some tips in the guidance include:

  • Make sure you provide flexible working for women going through menopause, which can be by altering working hours or by working from home.
  • Have a menopause policy that can go inside a staff handbook with arrangements available to women going through menopause.
  • Ensure that there are sufficient health and safety checks for women in the workplace.
  • Implement low-cost changes such as providing desk fans or moving individuals closer to a window.
  • Ensure that changes to manage the symptoms of menopause can be implemented where reasonable.
  • Raise awareness and training on the effects and symptoms of menopause for managers to be able to sensitively deal with concerns.

While menopause is not a protected characteristic under discrimination legislation, if an employer treats a woman’s menopause symptoms less seriously than they would a man’s health condition this could amount to sex discrimination or harassment.

Sex discrimination in shared parental pay

The Supreme Court has decided that it is not sex discrimination where an employer pays enhanced maternity pay, but pays shared parental pay to men at only the statutory rate.

The reasoning is  since men do not go through the same after birth recovery process, they do not need the same level of paternity pay. Accordingly, there is no discrimination

The current take up of shared parental leave is low , this ruling will not change this.

There has been a flurry in the press concerning family friendly leave provisions comparing the UK with other countries specifically the Nordic countries where leave periods are higher. The government is likely to come under pressure to find a way to enhance the uptake of shared parental leave but no legislation is currently planned.

I can help you in providing updated harassment policies and undertaking training with your management and supervision to reduce your risk exposure to harassment claims

For help and advice please contact me at or phone on 02036407748

Michael Newman