The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned employers that ‘banter’ and social media posts can be sexual harassment.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chair of the equality watchdog, has written to more than 400 employers, warning that they need to ‘step up’ action against bad behaviour.
New guidance on harassment is set to come into force, and it is hoped that it will become a statutory code of practice when the Government publishes the results of the consultation into current laws.
Employers are being advised to take seven key steps to comply with new harassment guidance;
- Create an anti-harassment policy
- Reduce risks
- Provide training
- Engage staff
- Make reporting simple
- Act promptly when a complaint is made
- Take steps to prevent harassment from third parties
They are also being warned that behaviour that may be considered ‘banter’ by some may not be deemed acceptable by another and that this conduct can be harassment even if it was not intended to be.
In the letter, Ms Hilsenrath states: “Recent high-profile cases have shone an important light on the continued harassment many women face in the workplace and showed that we still need to do more to modernise working cultures.
“It’s been two years since #MeToo forced sexual harassment to the top of the agenda. We’ve seen some employers wake up, take this on board and start to make the differences.
“The issue is not going to go away and if we are going to create working environments where no one is ever made to feel unsafe or threatened, then we need a dramatic shift in workplace cultures.”
Samantha Randall, an employment law expert with Palmers, said: Employers are being warned about the dangers of social media posts and ‘banter’ amongst friends being construed as sexual harassment, which could lead to claims being brought against employees.