Legislation changes regarding workplace sexual harassment are on the way

We’re awaiting legislation to tackle the misuse of confidentiality agreements or non-disclosure agreements to cover up sexual harassment.

These confidentiality agreements are most commonly included in settlement agreement, under which an employee may be paid a sum of money in return for agreeing not to bring a claim or to disclose what happened to them.

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It is possible that we’ll see:

  • Requirements for greater legal advice before these agreements are signed off - this may require a specific confirmation from the legal advisor within the agreement to say that they’ve advised on it.
  • Requirements for clear wording on the limitations on the confidentiality agreement – including provision that the individual may still report the matter to the police if they wish to do so.

A consultation on additional changes closed in October 2019, and as a result, it is possible that we’ll see:

  • A statutory Code of Practice that employers will have to comply with in order to demonstrate sufficient efforts have been made to protect staff – if you have a good Dignity at Work or Harassment Policy this may well cover the same ground, however, there may be a requirement to include some training on the Policy for your staff.
  • An extension of the time limits to bring claims of this nature – there may be evidence to suggest that the victims of sexual harassment need more time to bring themselves to put in a claim for example if they’re suffering from anxiety or are still under threat at work.
  • A requirement for employers to report allegations of sexual harassment to an external authority, including the details of the allegation, the outcome of any investigation and what action was taken.

If you need help with this or any other HR matter or area of employment law, contact us!