Major ruling on sexual harassment

Small firms are being warned to prepare for new employee sexual harassment rights following a major High Court ruling.

The ruling could mean that women or men subjected to sexual humiliation or harassment by members of the public in the course of their jobs will be allowed to claim against their employers, claims law firm Mace & Jones.

‘Both women and men would be protected from harassment in any job where they encounter the public – from pubs and hotels to hospitals and airports,’ says Martin Edwards, head of employment law at the firm. ‘The judge has given ministers just seven days to overhaul the equality laws, after ruling that the Government has failed to meet its obligations under EU law.’

Edwards added that the decision, in a challenge brought by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), could prompt ‘a large number of tribunal claims over harassment unless employers act quickly.

‘The EOC’s main target is the hotel and restaurant trade, but the ruling goes much further. Workers, women and men, would be equally protected.’

Although employers cannot eliminate the risk of harassment entirely, they must now take steps to reduce it as far as possible and to ensure that workers know how to react.

See also: Don’t panic over the Sex Discrimination Act

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Sexual harassment