Sexual harassment

Update on changes to the employer’s duty to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace

Optometrists at work

When is the change happening and what does it mean for members?

From 26 October 2024 all employers will be under a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. If employers fail to do so:

  1. The Equality and Human Right Commission will be able to take enforcement steps against the employer
  2. Employment tribunals will have the power, where a claim for sexual harassment is successful, to increase compensation awarded to the claimant by making an uplift of up to 25%.

This will place a positive obligation on employers to prevent sexual harassment and is likely to raise the standards that employment tribunals expect from employers.

Employers need to act now

Although this change in the law does not come into effect until Autumn 2024 employers need to prepare now.

The AOP recommends that employers:

For more information see tackling racism, discrimination and harassment at work.

The AOP encourages a zero tolerance policy towards any form of harassment or discrimination, whether from colleagues or third parties. As well as being responsible for how your employees behave during the course of their employment, you should take steps to protect your staff from harassment from third parties as well.

Employers may be liable if they, for example, fail to deal with a complaint from a member of staff of harassment by a patient or contractor.