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Do not overlook new rules on workplace sexual harassment

Thurbaraga Shan, solicitor in the employment law team at Franklins Solicitors, discusses the amendment to the Equality Act 2010 that comes into force from October this year.


The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill has received Royal Assent, with the aim of empowering employees and fostering safer work environments by addressing and preventing sexual harassment.

Thurbaraga Shan.

The new legislation is set to be effective from October 26, 2026, and introduces crucial changes to the Equality Act 2010, focusing on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are now obligated to take “reasonable steps” to proactively address and prevent sexual harassment, shifting the legislative emphasis from redress to prevention.

The new legislation also grants employment tribunals the authority to increase sexual harassment compensation by up to 25% when an employer is found to have breached the prevention duty.

Sexual harassment is defined in the Equality Act as unwanted conduct of a “sexual nature”. The law has primarily been introduced to protect women;  however it applies equally to people of all genders.

The key amendments include:

  • Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassment Employers will now bear a crucial duty to take ‘reasonable steps’ in preventing workplace sexual harassment. This marks a pivotal shift, emphasising proactive measures over reactive responses.
  • Compensation Uplift In cases in which sexual harassment is proved against an employer, the compensation awarded can see a significant uplift of up to 25%. This underscores the importance of employers fulfilling their duty to prevent harassment.
  • “Reasonable Steps” defined The legislation initially called for employers to take “all reasonable steps,” but a House of Lords amendment has altered this requirement to “reasonable steps.” The absence of a rigid definition leaves room for interpretation, offering employers a more achievable standard.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is expected to release updated guidance before the legislation takes effect. The anticipated inclusions in the guidance are:

  • A focus on comprehensive anti-harassment policies that address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • The importance of establishing clear and efficient complaints procedures for reporting harassment incidents.
  • Emphasis on ongoing and meaningful training for staff, ensuring they are equipped to address and prevent sexual harassment.

As the EHRC prepares to provide additional guidance, employers are urged to proactively review and possibly revise their policies, procedures and training programmes. This forward-thinking approach will not only align businesses with the forthcoming legislation but also contribute to cultivating a safer and more respectful work environment.

The UK’s proactive approach to combatting sexual harassment in the workplace sets a precedent, emphasising the importance of fostering respectful and inclusive work environments. Despite the legislation’s scaled-back impact, employers should not overlook the new duty.

Employers should proactively review and enhance their practices to align with the duty, starting in October 2024. This may be in the form of updating anti-harassment policies, ensuring meaningful anti-harassment training to educate employees about their rights and responsibilities and establishing clear reporting mechanisms for victims.

For employment law advice, contact the Employment Law team at Franklins Solicitors on 01604 828282 / 01908 660966 or email  

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