Typical discussion of this obligation has focussed on the employer's duty to protect its employees from sexual harassment by other employees.
As of next week, however, employers in the U.K. will also have a specific legal obligation to protect their employees from sexual harassment advanced by third parties such as clients and customers.
The Guardian.com reports:
Employers will be duty-bound from next week to protect their staff from sexual harassment by customers, suppliers and others they encounter in the course of their work. Workers are already protected from harassment by colleagues, but under new rules which come into force on April 6, they will be able to seek damages from employers who fail to take reasonable steps to protect them from harassment by a third party, if bosses knew that at least two incidents had already taken place.
The government was forced to change the law after the then Equal Opportunities Commission - now part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission - won a ruling that the government had failed to properly implement the European equal treatment directive, which requires workers to be protected from "any unwanted conduct related to their sex which violates their dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment".
The rules are expected to have their biggest impact in the catering, hotel and retail trades. The EOC told the high court that sexual harassment by customers was rife in the hotel and restaurant industry, which employs 670,000 women.