But from the outset criticism was raised of their apparent failure to satisfy the requirements of the directive, notably from the former Equal Opportunities Commission EOC. These objections culminated in a legal challenge of the regulations through judicial review proceedings last year, a challenge that proved successful. A new definition of harassment — what will this mean? Accordingly, individuals who are not subjected to the unwanted conduct themselves will also receive protection.
An example of this might be someone male or female working in an environment where sexist banter is commonplace and which, although not directed at that person or caused by their presence, creates an offensive environment for them. Managers will need to be extra vigilant in circumstances that might offend the above provisions; for example, by not allowing cultures of personal e-mail use or verbal banter to develop in an uncontrolled way. Harassment by third parties Even more significant, however, will be the added potential liability of institutions in the face of employee harassment by third parties, such as customers or students.
With effect from 6 April, an institution will be liable for sex discrimination when a third party subjects an employee to sex-related or sexual harassment, but only if the institution has failed to take such steps as would have been reasonably practicable to prevent the third party from doing so.
This provision will apply only if the institution knows that the complainant has been subject to harassment in the course of employment on at least two other occasions by a third party though it is immaterial whether the third party is the same or a different person on each occasion. It is accordingly vital that managers: It will be interesting to see whether, as part of the Equality Bill, the Government also reviews the harassment provisions in other discrimination legislation.
A woman will instead have to show only that she has been treated less favourably on the ground of her pregnancy or the fact that she has taken, or sought to take, statutory maternity leave. This means that the same benefits should be afforded during additional maternity leave the second 26 weeks as in ordinary maternity leave the first 26 weeks.
A separate set of regulations not yet published will amend the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations to remove the distinction between ordinary and additional maternity leave in respect of entitlement to non-pay benefits. These are significant changes that will mean that during both ordinary and additional maternity leave an employee will benefit from the terms and conditions that would have applied to her had she been at work, except for the terms providing for her remuneration that is, wages or salary.
Therefore, contractual benefits such as annual leave, pensions and so on will continue during additional maternity leave as well as ordinary maternity leave. This change will apply only to employees whose expected week of childbirth begins on or after 5 October Between now and then institutions should check and, if necessary, revise their policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant with the new regime.
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