Sainsbury’s signs legal agreement to protect staff from sexual harassment

Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s - (Copyright PA Wire)
0:01am, Wed 05 Aug 2020
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Sainsbury’s is the latest company to sign a legally-binding document with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) after being found liable for sexual harassment against a member of staff.

The supermarket chain was ordered to pay £9,585 in damages to a former worker in August last year, after a tribunal ruled it failed to take reasonable steps after a male colleague threatened to rape her.

The equality watchdog said that the retailer has now signed an agreement under Section 23 of the Equality Act 2006 which requires it to take all reasonable steps to prevent its employees from committing harassment.

It includes preparing a discrimination guide for line managers and employees, advising staff on how to deal with harassment, establishing more effective training for its workforce and providing regular reports to the EHRC on its progress.

We’re pleased to be working with Sainsbury’s and I hope that the improvements they have agreed to put in place will set the tone and standard for others to follow

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, said: “Everyone deserves a safe working environment and today we all recognise that frontline workers, like those who kept supermarkets open during lockdown, fully deserve our respect and protection.

“We’re pleased to be working with Sainsbury’s and I hope that the improvements they have agreed to put in place will set the tone and standard for others to follow.

“We need to learn the lessons from both #MeToo and lockdown and ensure that we are valuing essential workers and ensuring that our workplaces are fit for the values of the 21st century.”

In 2018, a member of the supermarket’s staff won an employment tribunal claim heard in Leicester, following an incident which took place in October 2016.

The tribunal heard a male colleague came in close proximity to the victim and said: “I feel like raping you. I have an erection.”

The man denied making the remark, claiming he had said: “You wake me up”. He was dismissed from Sainsbury’s in January 2017 following a disciplinary hearing.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “Safety is our highest priority and we do not tolerate harassment or abuse of any kind.

“We took immediate steps in 2016 to develop our training and processes and are committed to working closely with the EHRC.”

Last month, London North Eastern Railway (LNER) signed a Section 23 agreement to improve its service for disabled passengers, while bus company Go-Ahead London entered into a formal agreement with EHRC in February last year to safeguard its employees against sexual harassment.

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