Safeguarding and Prevent Duty: Sexual Harassment at Work and in Learning

The UK Government recently published its response (the “Response”) to its consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Employers are already bound by non-discrimination and harassment obligations. The Response acknowledges that there is a need to go further in the context of sexual harassment at work; “There is still a real, worrying problem with sexual harassment at work […] the steps we plan to take as a result of this consultation will help to shift the dial, prompting employers to take steps which will make a tangible and positive difference”.

What does this mean for employers?

The key takeaways are as follows:

  • Time limits for bringing claims under the Equality Act may increase from three to six months
  • Protections for employees against third-party harassment may be reintroduced
  • Updating/implementing anti-harassment policies and procedures needs to be a priority for employers
  • Employers must address and improve workplace practices and culture to prevent acts of harassment and discrimination
  • Carefully tailored and effective training sessions for employees should be the minimum
  • Complaints of harassment should be taken seriously, investigated and addressed in accordance with the workplace policy and procedures
  • It is imperative that employers take positive steps to prevent harassment rather than dealing with the issue after the event.

Employers can read more by visiting the helpful advice on this page

Within learning settings such as colleges, universities and training providers there is also a renewed emphasis on protecting people from sexual harassment. This includes:

  1. Educating people on what constitutes sexual harassment
  2. Zero tolerance on sexual harassment behaviour being considered banter
  3. Awareness of and combating sexual harassment online, via mobile apps and message services

Examples of sexual harassment online:

  1. Sending unwanted or unsolicited messages of a sexual nature
  2. Sending unwanted or unsolicited images of a sexual nature
  3. Pressurising someone to send sexual images of themselves
  4. Threatening to send sexual images or messages to third parties
  5. Circulating sexual messages or images to third parties without permission (note that it is a criminal offence to be in possession of or to circulate sexual images of anyone aged under 18)
  6. Being bullied because of actual or perceived gender and/or sexual orientation
  7. Body shaming
  8. ‘Outing’ someone where their individual’s sexuality or gender identity is publicly announced online without their consent

The consequences for a victim of sexual harassment can be devastating so it is vital that employers, parents, friends and we act quickly to support those raising concerns. Similarly, for the perpetrators of sexual harassment, it can lead to disciplinary action or dismissal from work. At the more serious level, it could result in arrest, a criminal conviction and registered sex offender (RSO) status.

Where there are serious instances of sexual harassment resulting in immediate threat you should call the police on 999.

You can read more here

If you would like further advice and guidance on this topic, please contact  

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