The legal definition of harassment in the Equality Act 2010 is “unwanted conduct which violates someone’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
In addition to the general prohibition on harassment there is a specific provision in the Equality Act regarding sexual harassment. Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits three types of harassment in relation to the protected characteristic of sex:
- sex-related harassment i.e. unwanted conduct related to the protected characteristic of sex;
- harassment of a sexual nature i.e. unwanted conduct of a sexual nature; and
- less favourable treatment based on a person's rejection of, or submission to, sex-related harassment or sexual harassment.
A consultation in 2019 also considered introducing a number of changes in order to tighten up the law on workplace harassment. In January 2020 the UK Equality Body, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), published technical guidance on workplace harassment, which it is anticipated will form the basis of a statutory code of practice when the government publishes its response to the 2019 consultation. The EHRC has also published Guidance on the misuse of Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) or confidentiality clauses in discrimination cases.