The Women and Equalities Committee has published a report on sexual harassment in the workplace concluding that harassment is an "everyday, common occurrence" and calling on employers, regulators and the government to take a tougher and more proactive approach.
The report makes a number of specific recommendations, including:
• the introduction of mandatory procedural requirements, sanctions for breaches and proactive enforcement along the lines of data protection and anti-money laundering rules
• a new duty for employers to take reasonable steps to protect workers from harassment and victimisation, including a new statutory Code of Practice
• the re-introduction of:
- statutory provisions on harassment by third parties but amended to remove the requirement for harassment to have occurred before, (the former "3 strikes rule");
- the statutory questionnaire procedure; and
- the power of Employment Tribunals to make wider recommendations in the event of a successful discrimination claim;
• better control and regulation of non-disclosure agreements.
Whether the WEC's report will lead to any changes to the law and/or to government policy remains to be seen. The WEC has also launched an inquiry into enforcement of rights under the Equality Act 2010 including the effectiveness of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission ("EHRC") in its role as watchdog.
The EHRC conducted its own investigation into sexual harassment at work earlier this year when it wrote to large employers across a range of industry sectors asking for evidence on a number of issues including safeguards to prevent sexual harassment, steps taken to ensure that employees are able to report harassment and plans to prevent harassment going forwards. The EHRC's report, "Turning the tables: Ending sexual harassment at work" of March 2018, concluded with similar calls for tougher action including a change in workplace culture led by employers, greater transparency about incidents of harassment and new laws to strengthen protection for victims.