Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023

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The Worker Protection Act 2023 signifies a substantial shift in UK workplace discrimination regulations.

What is the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023?

The worker protection act 2023 is a recent legislative update, approved in October 2023 and set to be enforced in October 2024. It introduces new obligations for employers regarding the prevention of sexual harassment among employees. Under this law, employers are required to implement ‘reasonable measures’ to prevent sexual harassment.

What changes have been made from the original 2010 act?

Compared to the Equality Act 2010, the Worker Protection Act 2023 introduces a new standard for businesses in preventing sexual harassment. The 2010 legislation mandated that employers must take ‘all reasonable steps’ to safeguard employees from sexual harassment. However, this requirement has been revised, and employers are now obligated to take ‘reasonable steps’. This change of phrasing removes the provision for protection against third-party harassment, which could impact employer liability under existing laws.

Employers who do not fulfil the preventive duty may now face enforcement action from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which could result in fines. This introduces an additional financial risk for non-compliant employers.

What does this mean for employers?

Although individual claims cannot be filed under the 2023 Act, employers should exercise caution when assessing their efforts to safeguard employees from sexual harassment. Any successful sexual harassment claim in a tribunal will also constitute a breach of this new obligation.

While specific examples of ‘reasonable steps’ have not been explicitly outlined under the 2023 Act, potential actions expected of employers could include:

  • conducting a thorough review of company policies and procedures
  • organising regular training sessions for employees at all levels
  • offering confidential avenues to raise concerns
  • ensuring prompt and serious handling of complaints
  • actively addressing or investigating instances of sexist or discriminatory behaviour in the workplace

It is believed that this new responsibility imposed on employers will serve as a preventive measure, ultimately reducing the occurrence of incidents and fostering a healthier, more positive work environment.

What are the financial implications of the act?

Employees who encounter sexual harassment and can demonstrate that their employer did not take reasonable steps to prevent it may receive a 25% increase in compensation through employment tribunals. Consequently, employers could incur substantial financial liabilities not just from possible fines but also from potential legal actions if they do not implement sufficient preventive measures.

How can organisations demonstrate they have taken ‘reasonable steps’ to protect employees?

Implement an independent whistleblowing hotline

Offering security to your employees begins at the point of making a report.

Safecall, as an independent whistleblowing service providers, ensures  employees have a secure avenue to report wrongdoing.

Ensure your procedures are impartial

Case management and investigation services, offered by specialised external providers, ensure competence and impartiality.

If investigations are to be handled internally, training for managers is essential. Whistleblowing is a unique situation. Whistleblowing reporting managers who have not received training can feel overwhelmed or out of their depth when a whistleblowing case arises. Arranging training sessions for your workers, created bespoke for your business, can help avoid the fallout of non-compliance with the new regulatory measures.

Train employees; raise awareness

It will be expected that employees will be trained and educated on how to identify discrimination, and how to best report a concern. In order to cultivate a positive working culture it is key that employees know how to make a disclosure. Educating your workers on your whistleblowing policy and their rights in making a disclosure helps to develop a culture of openness, transparency, and integrity.

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