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Government launches survey on sexual harassment in the workplace


Roger Spence, director and head of employment law at Harrison Drury, outlines government plans to gather data on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is launching a survey to seek the views of sexual harassment victims. The survey is intended to enable the public to have an impact on government policy, and to ensure that policies focus on areas identified by victims.

It also reflects a previous commitment by the government to gather data on the prevalence of sexual harassment.

Building a picture of how many people are affected

GEO plans to send out the survey to 12,200 individuals from ‘every walk of life’ in the UK. It will go out to people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. How participants will be selected and the deadline for responses has not yet been confirmed.

The survey will ask participants to share their experiences of sexual harassment both inside and outside the workplace and provide details of where they have experienced harassment and in what form.

It is intended that the feedback from the survey will help GEO to create a picture of how many people in the UK are affected by sexual harassment.

Updated technical guidance for employers

On 15 January 2020, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published an updated technical guidance on sexual harassment and harassment at work. A separate shorter guide for employers on preventing sexual harassment at work has also been published.

The new guidance explains the employer’s legal responsibilities and the practical steps to take to deal with harassment and victimisation at work. It also provides advice for workers to help them understand the law, their employer’s obligations and how employers should respond to complaints regarding harassment.

The employer’s responsibilities

Employers are responsible for ensuring workers do not face harassment in their workplace and should take reasonable steps to protect them. It is important to understand that employers will be liable for any harassment committed by employees if they fail to take adequate measures to prevent it.

If you run a business and employ people, it is highly recommended that you review procedures in line with the updated technical guidance.

Further necessary measures may include:

  • Making sure to put in place a comprehensive equal opportunities policy.
  • Running regular training programmes for staff to prevent harassment at work.
  • Having an official procedure in place to deal with harassment and victimisation complaints.


If you would like to find out more about preventing harassment in the workplace and dealing with complaints procedures, or to seek specialist legal advice from Harrison Drury’s employment law team please contact Roger Spence on 01772 258321.

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