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The Labour Relations Agency, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Committee for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NIC-ICTU) and endorsed by Women in Business, has developed a Guide on Eliminating Sexual Harassment from the Modern Workplace.

It contains a sample Sexual Harassment Policy and is aimed at employers, employees and their representatives.

In the introduction, the Guide sets out the extent of sexual harassment in the workplace. Indeed,  the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland confirmed it is the area they receive most queries on.

The Guide defines sexual harassment in a workplace setting as:

actions or behaviour with the same purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”. Sexual harassment occurs “where a person subjects another to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature”.

Examples of types of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct are provided (e.g. non-verbal conduct would include the display of sexually explicit or suggestive material such as calendars).

The Guide advocates having a stand-alone Sexual Harassment Policy and notes that many simply do not report incidences of sexual harassment.

The Guide then sets out the legal framework in some detail covering the law pertaining to different types of claims, including third party harassment (which differs in Northern Ireland as compared to Great Britain).

In Great Britain, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will replace the existing statutory defence; the statutory defence requires employers to take all steps reasonably practicable to prevent harassment occurring. Instead, there will be a positive duty on employers to take positive steps to prevent sexual harassment and employment tribunals will have the power to provide an uplift of up to 25% in compensation when an employer has failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it. The Guide advocates for the Bystander Approach (also discussed at the Domestic Abuse Conference recently).

The Guide then reviews two recent tribunal cases, reminding employers that having policies and procedures in place is simply not enough and the need for proper investigation.

The Guide also sets out pro-active steps that can be taken, which includes:

  • Gather data;
  • Do not downplay harassment;
  • Have in place an effective sexual harassment policy;
  • Takes a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment;
  • Encourage employees to report sexual harassment and ensure know who / how to report sexual harassment;
  • Take allegations seriously, investigate properly and protect from victimisation;
  • Train all employees and train managers; and
  • Ensure leaders visibly communicate commitment.


The First and Deputy First Ministers recently confirmed that Ending Violence Against Women and Girls is one of the Executive’s top priorities.

Conor Murphy, Economy Minster, has also made it clear that co-design and co-partnership is the way forward so this Guide very apt. It is likely that this approach will be used in other areas.

(Please see link below).

Eliminating Sexual Harassment from the Modern Workplace