Like you, I believe there is no place for sexual harassment in the workplace or, indeed, in wider society. Sexual harassment has been illegal for decades and strong, clear laws against it are set out in the Equality Act 2010. However, recent reports have shown there is still a real, worrying problem with sexual harassment.
Ministers in the Government Equalities Office want everybody to feel safe at work so they are looking into whether the laws on sexual harassment in the workplace are operating effectively. Currently employers can be legally held responsible for sexual harassment of their staff at work, if the harassment is carried out by a colleague and the employer did not take all the steps they could to prevent the harassment from happening. Ministers and officials believe this law is strong and effective, but questions have been raised over particular elements on sexual harassment law.
As a result, they are exploring what more could be done to ensure that employers do take all the steps they can to prevent harassment; whether employers need to made explicitly responsible for protecting staff from harassment by third parties; whether interns and volunteers are adequately covered by equality protections; and whether people should be given longer to take a harassment, discrimination or victimisation claim to a Tribunal.
The Government Equalities Office has run a consultation to seek views on these questions and to help improve its understanding of people’s lived-reality of these issues. The consultation has now closed and the feedback is being reviewed. I look forward to reading the findings when its report is published in due course.
I hope this reassures you that action is being taken to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.