New ACAS Guidance on Sexual Harassment, Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination

Gareth Edwards
Partner - Employment Law | VWV
20th December 2017
Member roleInitiative member

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has published new guidance regarding sexual harassment at work, and also pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The guidance aims to assist employers on how to identify and support people that face sexual harassment at work and on how to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Sexual Harassment

This guidance includes examples of how sexual harassment can occur at work, such as: • written or verbal comments of a sexual nature • displaying pornographic or explicit images • sending or forwarding emails that contain content of a sexual nature • unwanted physical contact and touching • sexual assault.

The guidance confirms that employers have a responsibility to be clear with staff about the sorts of behaviour that is unacceptable and to ensure that they have robust workplace policies to address instances of sexual harassment. In addition, it was highlighted that a complaint of sexual harassment need not always be directed to a supervisor or manager.

Employees may feel more comfortable reporting instances of sexual harassment to a member of HR, a designated 'fair treatment contact' or a local trade union representative.

Finally, it is important to note that sexual assault and physical threats are criminal acts that should be reported to the police.

Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination

The guidance follows an increase of almost 10% in calls to ACAS in relation to pregnancy and maternity related issues and outlines that employers should: • develop an inclusive policy that ensures all employees are aware of their obligations regarding pregnancy and maternity discrimination • provide a suitable place for employees to rest (in line with the law) • identify and deal with risks to health and safety of a pregnant employee and their unborn child.

In addition, advice is given to employers on how to help managers deal fairly with women at work and ensure compliance with the Equality Act 2010. It outlines that: • employees on maternity leave should be made aware of opportunities for promotion and training • pregnancy related absences must not be included in an employee's absence record • employees must not be dismissed or made redundant for any issue related to pregnancy or maternity leave or maternity pay.

For more information, please contact Gareth Edwards, in our Employment Law team, at gedwards@vwv.co.uk , or on 0117 314 5220.

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