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complaints of harassment by male and female employees consistently to avoid any direct discrimination.  Appropriate action may involve warnings as to the consequences of repeated acts of harassment and, in serious cases, the withdrawal of services or the withdrawal of normal services.


'Sexual Harassment: Guidance for Managers and Supervisors' explains how to prevent harassment taking place and how to handle complaints.  It is available, along with other information and guidance on harassment, on the EOC website www.eoc.org.uk


A public authority is liable for any acts of harassment carried out by its employees in the course of their employment, or by any other person over whom the public authority has direct control and therefore for whose conduct it could reasonably be held responsible. This is the case, in most circumstances, even where those acts are carried out without either the knowledge or approval of the public authority.  Public authorities will have a defence to claims of harassment which has been committed by their employees or agents if they have taken such prior measures as are reasonably practicable to prevent harassment taking place.


The harassment provisions in the employment and vocational training sections of the SDA do not expressly extend to harassment of employees by someone who is not under the direct control of the employer.  An employee who has been subjected to serious harassment, however, which the employer could have prevented but did not, may be entitled to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.

Chapter 3:

How to meet the specific duties



All the public authorities listed in Appendix D are subject to the specific duties described in this chapter.  Further orders may be made by government from time to time to update the list of authorities.


The duties set out a framework to assist listed public authorities in planning, delivering and evaluating action to meet the general duty and to report on those activities.  At the heart of this framework is the Gender Equality Scheme (the scheme), which is explained below.  When developing and implementing the scheme, however, public authorities should bear in mind the scheme is a means of meeting the three elements of the general duty, not an end in itself.  When public authorities are being assessed on whether or not they have met the duty, the existence of the scheme will not in itself be enough.  They will have to demonstrate what action they have taken and the outcomes they have achieved.


The duties apply to all listed authorities whatever their size, but the way in which they are implemented should be appropriate to the size of the authority and its functions.  A large NHS trust, for example, may have the capacity to undertake a significant change project to implement the duty.  A small school, while still obliged to implement the specific duties, will do so on a scale appropriate to its size and resources.  

What do the specific duties require public authorities to do?

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