EHRC Release anti-harassment guidance

Nicola Mullineux

Nicola Mullineux

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20 Jan 2020

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New guidance has been released for employers on preventing harassment at work. This report was provided by the government’s equality watchdog: the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

EHRC Guidance

What does the report say?

This report focuses on several key areas. It includes what type of behaviour employers ought to look out for and how they should respond to harassment complaints.

The guidance specifically provides an up to date list of behaviours that may constitute harassment. It’s important to note that the behaviour must be unwanted and relate to an individual’s protected characteristic for it to classify. These behaviours include:

  • spoken words
  • written words
  • posts on social media
  • physical gestures
  • facial expressions
  • mimicry
  • graffiti

What should employers take from this?

The guidance explains that there’s no specific protection against third-party harassment under the Equality Act 2010. However, employers are encouraged to take reasonable steps to prevent this. After all, employers may still find themselves liable for discrimination at the hands of a third party under other provisions of the Act.

There’s also a specific warning against the harassment of former staff. The report reminds employers to maintain professional and respectful relationship with previous employees.

What about harassment by colleagues?

It’s possible to avoid liability for harassment committed by a worker during their employment. However, you must show that you’ve taken all reasonable steps to prevent it. This is stated in section 109 of the Equality Act 2010.

The EHRC advises employers to have effective and well communicated anti-harassment policies. And, ensure staff are given every opportunity to raise issues.

How should I respond to a claim of harassment?

When responding to complaints of harassment, you should attempt an informal resolution first.

If this proves unsuccessful, or an informal approach would be unsuitable, then begin a formal procedure. Don’t set a time limit when dealing with complaints, or disregard those where the incident in question took place some time ago.

To ensure objectivity during investigations, appoint people who are not directly involved in the issue. Preferably these officers will be from different parts of the organisation with less knowledge of the people involved.

If a worker raises a complaint but then decides not to take the matter any further, you should still take steps to ensure the matter is resolved.

So what’s new?

This guidance doesn’t necessarily announce anything new. However, it does combine best practice advice into one place. So if you lack the desire, or resources, to keep on top of case law developments, this resource is available to help.

This isn’t statutory guidance. So, you don’t have to follow it to the letter. However, employers should strongly consider reviewing their own practices and adopting these measures to guard against harassment at work.

Expert support

If you want to conduct a review or update your policies and procedures, speak to a Croner expert for a helping hand on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Nicola Mullineux

Nicola Mullineux, as Group Content Manager, leads a team of employment law content writers who produce guidance and commentary on employment law, case law and key HR developments. She has written articles for national publications for over 10 years and regularly helps to shape employment of the future by taking part in Government consultations on employment law change.

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Nicola Mullineux

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