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Sainsbury’s agrees to legally binding agreement with equality watchdog

Equality and Human Rights Commission

2 min read Partner content

Leading supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has signed 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 retailer has willingly agreed to a legal agreement, known as a section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006. This agreement requires Sainsbury’s to take all reasonable steps to prevent its employees from committing harassment and includes:

  • Preparing a discrimination guide for line managers and employees
  • Advising staff on how to deal with harassment through internal communications
  • Establishing more effective training for its workforce
  • Providing regular reports to the EHRC on its progress

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 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 twenty-first century.”

The EHRC started working with Sainsbury’s in January 2019. It wrote to the retailer stating it was considering using its enforcement powers after a member of the supermarket’s staff won an employment tribunal claim in 2018 for sexual harassment, following an incident which took place in 2016. The regulator of the Equality Act asked Sainsbury’s to provide information and documentation on its safeguarding procedures for employees. While the EHRC recognised that the household name had made improvements to its understanding, policies, practices and procedures since the judgement, it reached the view that further progress could be made and, as an alternative to an investigation, suggested an agreement.

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 agreement is due to last for 18 months from this summer.

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