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30th March 2022

We all have a duty to prevent workplace harassment

Are you doing enough to prevent harassment in the workplace? From March 2023, employers will need to do more. Steph Wiggans, Solicitor at Napthens explains what it means to you.

The UK is the 11th country to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Violence and Harassment Convention (the Convention). The Convention works towards allowing individuals the right to a world of work that is free from violence and harassment and will come into force on 7th March 2023.

A duty to prevent workplace harassment

Under the Convention, employers are to be given an additional duty to prevent workplace harassment.  Whilst this is not a new principle, as employers have always had a duty to protect their employees, the ratification of this Convention recognises that more needs to be done. There is a new focus on placing the responsibility on employers to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace.

The new Convention creates a duty for employers to protect employees from all forms of harassment. Not only does it protect employees from harassment from their colleagues, but it also extends to third parties including clients and service users. Individuals are protected regardless of their contractual status, which means it protects job applicants, people in training, volunteers, apprentices and former employees.

What does the Convention cover?

The Convention is not limited to conduct in the working hours or even in the workspace. The Convention applies to all violence and harassment in the world of work, which includes:

  • In the workplace
  • In places where the workers take breaks
  • During work related trips
  • During training and events
  • During social activities
  • Through work-related communications
  • In employer provided accommodation
  • When commuting to and from work

Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said the UK already had some of the strongest laws to protect employees and wants to strengthen them even further. She reaffirmed the UK’s zero tolerance approach to workplace harassment. “This government is committed to tackling all forms of violence and harassment and we will support employers to put the necessary measures in place to ensure everyone feels safe in their place of work,” she said.

What does this mean for employers?

This should not be new information to anyone as employers have always had a duty to protect their employees from workplace violence and harassment. You should make sure that you know how to spot violence and harassment in the workplace and be clear that the business takes a zero-tolerance approach. If you do identify cases of harassment, you should make sure that that it is dealt with seriously, whilst remaining sensitive to the situation.

You should familiarise yourself with the Harassment Policy and Procedure.

If you have any queries in relation to this policy, please get in touch.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Napthens LLP

Employment Law Specialists

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