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Watchdog Urges Employers to 'Step Up' and Fight Workplace Harassment

UK equality watchdog the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has issued new technical guidance for employers, to help them protect staff from sexual harassment and victimisation at work.

Launching the guidance, EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath called on employers to step up and take action against misconduct in order to protect staff. She said, "The issue is not going to go away and if we are going to create working environments where no one is ever made to feel unsafe or threatened, then we need a dramatic shift in workplace cultures.

"No form of harassment can ever be justified and for too long the onus has been on the victim to challenge inappropriate treatment. By setting out legal requirements and providing practical examples on preventing and responding to harassment, we hope that our guidance will shift the burden back on to employers."

To complement the new guidance, the EHRC has also published seven steps that every employer should consider when aiming to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.

The seven steps are:

  1. Develop an effective anti-harassment policy;
  2. Engage staff with regular one-to-ones and have an open-door policy;
  3. Assess and mitigate risks in the workplace;
  4. Consider using a reporting system that allows workers to raise an issue anonymously or in name;
  5. Train staff on what sexual harassment in the workplace looks like, what to do if workers experience it and how to handle complaints;
  6. Act immediately when a harassment complaint is made;
  7. Treat harassment by a third party just as seriously as that by a colleague.
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