The government has pledged to introduce a new code of practice for employers so they can better understand their legal responsibilities to protect staff from sexual harassment.
In an announcement today the Government Equalities Office and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said they would also consult on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and how to strengthen the law in relation to harassment.
The announcement follows the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s finding that tackling sexual harassment deserved the same emphasis as efforts to prevent data misuse and money laundering.
The government’s recommendations stop short of introducing specific penalties for noncompliance and instead says it can consider whether ’further learnings can be taken from the criminal justice system to use in the employment tribunal system’, to help vulnerable claimants.
The government also said it will commission a survey to gather regular data on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace and consult on the evidence base for a new legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work. In a survey conducted last year ComRes claimed that 40% of women (and 18% of men) have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at work at some point.
Kelly Tolhurst MP, business minister, said one aspect of harassment is the ’minority of cases where NDAs are used unethically’, and that employees ’may not be aware of their protections and rights.’
Magic circle Allen & Overy was criticised earlier this year after it emerged it had a role in drawing up a non-disclosure agreement involving disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Earlier this week, the Gazette reported that magic circle firms would not be replicating the ‘big four’ professional services by revealing how many partners had departed for inappropriate behaviour.