man holding judge's gavel and one hand on a book

What is The Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Act 2023?

In the last two decades, increasing attention has been drawn to issues of sexual harassment both in and beyond the workplace. This has culminated in The Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Act 2023, which received royal assent on the 18th of September. Alongside established harassment and bullying laws, this bill promises harsh sentences for those found guilty of sex-based harassment in public spaces.

In this blog, you’ll find all the information you need to know about The Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Act 2023, both as an employer and an employee.


Workplace harassment laws

Under the Equality Act 2010, workplace harassment and bullying is considered unlawful. However, there is a distinction between the two as only harassment itself can be grounds for legal action as it’s against the law. This applies when unwanted behaviour relates to an employee’s:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion or belief
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy or maternity status
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment or identification

The law outlines that employers are responsible for taking steps to prevent workplace bullying and harassment. They are also liable for any harassment suffered by employees. It’s recommended that victims first seek counsel from managers or HR before submitting a formal complaint or initiating legal action. As such, it can be beneficial to obtain guidance from employment law specialists for employers.


The Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Act 2023 explained

This bill is designed to provide more comprehensive regulations to protect individuals against sex-based harassment. The official documentation states it is ‘An Act to make provision about causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress to a person in public where the behaviour is done because of that person’s sex; and for connected purposes‘. It has consequently made additions to the Public Order Act 1986.

Most workplaces are considered public places, as it is available for public access. As a result, employees and employers should be aware of this legislation. The provisions of the bill state that criminal charges can be brought against anyone found guilty on a sex-based harassment offence.

A government supported amendment to the bill will see the maximum sentence increased from six months to two years. It should be noted that in cases of sex-based harassment in the workplace, liability lies with employees too.

Ongoing developments

It has been agreed by MPs that statutory guidance on what legal defence is available to defendants should be added to the bill. This includes a detailed definition of what constitutes reasonable and unreasonable conduct. The intention is to make it easier for the police to enforce the new regulations. It is unclear when these inclusions will become part of the bill.


Expertise on employment law for employers UK

As an employer, harassment claims of any kind should be taken very seriously. Issues of harassment in workplace, especially those based around sex, can be difficult to navigate. Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd provides professional HR advice for employers that is tailored to your circumstances. This includes actionable advice in areas of contract law, discrimination, workplace health and safety, harassment, and much more. Contact us to speak to one of our experts today.