Sainsbury's signs legal agreement to improve staff training after sexual harassment case

Supermarket says safety is its ‘highest priority’ 

Sarah Young@sarah_j_young
Wednesday 05 August 2020 14:35
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Sainsbury’s has been ordered to improve training for its 116,000 workers after being found liable for sexual harassment against a member of staff.

The supermarket chain has signed a legally binding document with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and has been ordered to pay £9,585 in damages to the former worker.

The tribunal ruled that, while Sainsbury’s was not directly responsible for the staff member being harassed, it had failed to take sufficient steps to prevent it.

The equality watchdog added that the retailer had “willingly agreed” to the deal under the Equality Act 2006, which requires it to take all reasonable steps to prevent its employees from committing harassment.

The steps include 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.

The statutory measures will be in place at the supermarket for 18 months.

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.”

She continued: “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.”

The move comes after a member of the supermarket’s staff won an employment tribunal claim in 2018, following an incident which took place in October 2016.

The male staff member denied the claims made against him but 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.”

The supermarket is the latest company to sign an agreement with EHRC.

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

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