Worker protection bill

CSP successfully campaigns to protect workers against sexual harassment

Worker protection bill
Worker protection bill we answer your questions

In 2021 the UK government agreed to change the law to give individuals greater protections at work from sexual harassment. This is reflective the work of a successful alliance of trade unions, campaigning organisations and academics and the current climate on workplace sexual harassment and safety in UK society. Work towards the commitment to policy change began in 2018 and was enshrined into UK law under the Workers Protection Bill, an amendment of the Equality Act 2010, in 2023

Why was the Worker Protection Bill needed? 

Workplace sexual harassment has been a part of global public debate in recent years. In the UK, according to recent figures, six out of ten women have been sexually harassed at work and 80 per cent of those who have been sexually harassed don’t know how to report it. 

According to recent figures 60% of women have been sexually harassed at work

We also know that different women experience different rates of harassment. When considering intersectionality and the experiences of women with more than one protected characteristic, these figures increase significantly. Prior to the Worker Protection Bill being brought into UK law, the TUC argued that legal protections, which relied on victims to report incidents of harassment at work, weren’t working.                                                                                          

To improve protections for people facing sexual harassment at work, the TUC brought together an alliance of trade unions, campaigning organisations and academics, who launched a campaign to end sexual harassment at work. The alliance formed in 2018 and CSP staff members were involved to present the views of the physiotherapy workforce from its formation. 

Collaboratively, the alliance surveyed thousands of individuals at work, provided case study examples and worked with the Government Equalities Office (GEO). As a result, in 2021 the GEO committed to bring in policy changes to give individuals greater protection at work. The updates were originally due to be a part of the Employment Bill; however ultimately the changes were enacted through the Workers Protection Bill

While the campaigning of the alliance was successful in changing the law, unfortunately the government reneged on their commitment to protect workers against third party sexual harassment.  For instance, protecting workers against harassment from patients. 

What is the Worker Protection Bill? 

The Bill, proposed by Wera Hobhouse MP, will create a preventative duty – a requirement that employers will prevent sexual harassment from taking place in their workplaces and moves us from a culture of redress to a culture of prevention. The Bill is designed to make provision in relation to the duties of employers and the protection of workers under an amendment to the Equality Act 2010

What does the Worker Protection Bill mean for employers? 

From October, employers will need to comply with the new duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of employees. Under the Bill, the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be able to take enforcement action against firms that breach the duty. Tribunals will also have the power to increase compensation by up to 25 per cent if it finds an employer has breached it. 

Employers should ensure that they are regularly reviewing and updating harassment policies and reporting procedures, taking any harassment complaints seriously, carry out regular training with all staff and support joint working with trade unions, staff side groups and diversity networks. 

However, having workplace policies in place is not enough, companies must be taking proactive action to ensure that employees are protected against workplace sexual harassment and that what is in place is effective. 

Where cultural issues are identified, use this as an opportunity to carry out a review into the culture of your business or organisation, your policies and their effectiveness. 

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