New laws to protect workers from harassment and violence will come into place in the UK within the next year.

The Government plans to introduce a new duty on employers, which will mean they would need to take steps to prevent their employees from experiencing sexual harassment. They will also need to introduce explicit protections for employees from harassment by third parties, including customers and clients.

The UK has become the 11th country to sign up to International Labour Convention Number 190 (C190). This is an international treaty that recognises the rights of everyone to work free from violence and harassment. 

Governments that sign up to the treaty are expected to put in place the necessary measures to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work. 

The UK government says it already has a robust legal framework in place consisting of both civil and criminal laws and health and safety law. 

The new measures it plans, it says, will not only strengthen protections for those affected by harassment at work but will also motivate employers to make improvements to workplace practices and culture. 

The UK Government is also supporting the Equality and Human Rights Commission to create a statutory Code of Practice on sexual harassment and harassment in the workplace, and producing guidance for employers on how they can take effective action to protect those at risk.

Work and Pensions Secretary of State, Thérèse Coffey, said: “We already have some of the strongest laws in the world to protect employees and ratifying this convention takes us one step further to eradicating violence and harassment in the workplace.”

She called on other countries to sign the treaty too. She said: “I hope that by the UK and others taking this step, our international friends will join us in ratifying this convention and demonstrate their commitment to upholding these values.”

Adding: “This government is committed to tackling all forms of violence and harassment and we will support employers to put the necessary measures in place to ensure everyone feels safe in their place of work.”

“The safety of everyone in our country, wherever they are, is our priority. No one should have to be in fear of violence in any space, including in their place of work,” said Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean. “By ratifying this convention, we are taking another step to eradicating violence of all forms and ensuring everyone is able to flourish without fear in their workplace.”

The UK says it played a key role in the negotiations on the content of the convention, “building on its global leadership role in tackling gender-based violence.”

The Convention says it represents an historic opportunity to shape a future of work based on dignity and respect for all.

It is now carrying out a global campaign to build support for C190, hoping all governments take on the treaty’s requirements. 

The treaty came into force last June and among the first countries that signed up were Mauritius, Argentina and Somalia.