New – Duty to Prevent Sexual Harassment

This is a new law that was passed in October 2023 and likely to become effective in October 2024.  It is likely that an incoming Labour government would tighten it up further, so it is a good idea to review your approach now, in readiness for the change.

It represents a significant change to the law on an employer’s obligations to protect employees from sexual harassment. Although note that it only applies to this form of discrimination.

What does the new law mean?

It means there is a new duty to take “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of your employees in the course of their employment.  Whilst having taken ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment already provides a potential defence against a claim, there has not been a legal duty to do so – until now.

Initially the proposal was to include harassment of employees by third parties such as customers and suppliers, but this was removed.

What are ‘Reasonable Steps?’

There is no guidance on this in the new law. It is likely to mean going further than just having a policy and to include ensuring it is regularly updated and communicated and that regular training is implemented.

Potential Consequences

A claim for breaching the new duty can be taken to the employment tribunal but only as part of a wider claim for sexual harassment.   If the claim is successful, then an award made by the tribunal (in respect of any types of discrimination included in the claim, not just sexual harassment) may be uplifted by up to 25%.


The EHRC is updating its technical guidance on sexual harassment and harassment at work, to reflect the new duty.

Action to Take

Review your current practices and take action to ensure you are taking reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. Taking this kind of action in respect of harassment of any kind not only provides a potential defence to claims but is a valuable part of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives which have broader benefits for the organisation.  Consider the following:

  • Update and communicate your policies.
  • Implement a training and communication programme that is not just a ‘tick box’.
  • Carry out risk assessments.
  • Ensure there is a clear process for reporting complaints or concerns.
  • Consider establishing employee resource groups to consult with and represent the interests of vulnerable or under-represented groups.

For more help and advice, please contact the HR Services Team at or contact us via the form below:

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