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Time to refresh that anti-bullying and harassment training?

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Time to refresh that anti-bullying and harassment training?

Time to refresh that anti-bullying and harassment training?

When was the last time you did some Equality & Diversity training for your employees, or refreshed some training that you have done? If you haven’t done some for a couple of years, then that training might be considered stale.

If one of your employees commits an act of harassment against a colleague, you as the employer are liable for that. Employers can defend these types of claims by showing that they took all ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent harassment happening. Although there are a number of steps that can be taken to prevent harassment occurring, one of the most important and effective is to provide training to employees and managers on how to prevent harassment and what their responsibilities are when it occurs.

However, just putting employees on a training course once or even once every few years might not be enough as a recent decision by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) shows. In Allay (UK) Limited v Gehlen, G was regularly subjected to racist comments by one of his colleagues (IP). Those comments were made within earshot of other colleagues (AB and CR) who did not take any action. G also complained to his manager (DA) who, although he told G to report the matter to HR did not take any action himself to report the matter.

The employer sought to defend the claim on the basis that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment occurring and pointed to the fact that it had provided Equality & Diversity training for employees (including IP) in January 2015, about 2 years before the events in question.

"The EAT agreed with the Employment Tribunal’s conclusion that the training was ‘stale’ and that it would have been a reasonable step to have refreshed the training."

The EAT noted that the fact that the training needed to be refreshed was amply demonstrated by IP’s remarks and the failure of AB, CR and DA to properly react to the harassment or the allegations.

As the training had made plain to the employees what they should do if they heard unacceptable remarks, the fact that they all failed to follow the guidance demonstrated that the training needed to be refreshed and it would have been a reasonable step to do so. As such, the employer’s defence failed.

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We provide training to employers in preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace, in both half and full day courses. For details on these courses, or for more information on this update, please contact Jon Taylor