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Does workplace harassment fall under Employers’ Liability?
Does workplace harassment fall under Employers’ Liability?

21 Oct 2019

Does workplace harassment fall under Employers’ Liability?

Following a staggering amount of sexual harassment allegations towards former Film Producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017, the ‘#MeToo’ movement gained worldwide momentum, inspiring men and women to share their own personal experiences. It is a movement that has sparked many conversations about the responsibility of employers in protecting workers from sexual harassment, as well as how businesses can prevent these situations occurring in the first place.

Earlier this year, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) outlined plans to give employees greater protection at work against sexual harassment, which could be introduced as a new preventative duty for employers to stop incidents occurring in the workplace.

We’re taking a deeper look into Employers’ Liability and a business’ responsibility to employees in protecting them against workplace harassment, as well as what the GEO’s new mandatory duty on employers will consist of.


What is Employers’ Liability?

Whether a business has one employee, a small team, or a large cohort of staff, all employers have a duty of care to their employees and could be liable if an injury, illness or other misconduct occurs while at work. If an employer is found to be responsible for the illness or injury, they may be required to pay compensation to the injured party. Even a former employee can file a claim if health and safety rules were not applied and resulted in harm, which is why all employers must, by law, have Employers’ Liability insurance.


Why do employers have a responsibility to protect against sexual harassment?

The Equality Act 2010 makes businesses liable for the conduct of employees, meaning anything a worker does during their employment is treated as if it has also been done by the employer, regardless of whether or not it was done with the employer’s knowledge.

The GEO states that it wants to ‘ensure that any victims of third-party harassment can be confident that they are protected by the law if their employer has not taken reasonable steps to protect them, and that they feel able to take legal action if they so wish. It is also important to ensure that employers are clear that they have this legal responsibility to protect their staff from third-party harassment, and that they take all reasonable steps to provide this protection.’


What’s outlined in the new GEO plan?

If this mandatory duty on employers outlined by the GEO is implemented, it will be enforced by the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission), requiring businesses to protect workers from harassment in the workplace.

The mandatory duty would create a shift from employer liability after the incident of harassment, to a proactive duty before any unlawful conduct has taken place - making it clear to employers that they must play a role in prevention and encouraging them to make more effort towards it.

Regarding this issue, Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mourdant, said: “Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity, and that includes their time at work.

“The vast majority of employers take their responsibilities towards their staff in this regard seriously, however we know that some employees have not been protected from vile and degrading behaviour towards them.

“I’m determined government makes a lasting change on this issue, clamping down on the individuals that think they can treat people in this way, and empowering the UK workforce to come forward and get the justice they deserve.”*


Why instruct Speed Medical for your Employers’ Liability cases?

If an individual were to experience a physical injury at work, the employer may be liable to pay compensation. For these kinds of cases, Speed Medical offers a comprehensive Employers’ Liability Medical Report service. Our experienced team will choose the most suitable medical professional from our panel of eminent, hand-picked experts. Whether your client requires an Orthopaedic Surgeon or Psychiatrist, we’ll find an expert close to your client’s location who will conduct a quality report.

To learn more about our Employers’ Liability Medical Report service, please click here.

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