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New Recommendations on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The Women and Equalities Commission has produced a new report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. The main recommendations are as follows: • A mandatory duty on employers to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace, punishable by fines • A duty for public sector employers to conduct risk assessment for sexual harassment, and take steps to mitigate any risks • Reintroducing third party harassment, so that employers are liable if they have failed to take reasonable steps to prevent others harassing their staff • Extending sexual harassment protection interns and volunteers • Extension of the time limit for bringing a claim to six months, with the clock paused while any internal grievance process is going on • Enabling tribunals to award punitive damages in sexual harassment cases creating a presumption of costs, so that employers will ordinarily have to pay the employee’s legal costs if it loses a sexual harassment case • Limiting the ability to use confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements to ‘government approved’ standard clauses • making it a professional disciplinary offence for lawyers (and, in certain circumstances, also a criminal offence for the employer and the lawyer) to propose the use of a non-approved confidentiality clause

These are only recommendations for the time being and it remains to be seen to what extent the current Government take these into account.

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