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Sainsbury’s signs EHRC agreement

Sainsbury’s has signed a legally binding document with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) after it was found liable for sexual harassment against an employee.

According to the EHRC, Sainsbury’s “willingly” agreed to sign the legal agreement, which is otherwise known as a section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006. 

The agreement requires the retailer to “take all reasonable steps” to prevent its employees from committing harassment.

This includes preparing a discrimination guide for employees, advising staff on how to deal with harassment through internal communications, establishing “more effective” training and providing regular reports to the EHRC on its progress.

The EHRC first began working with Sainsbury’s in January 2019. It contacted the group stating it was “considering using its enforcement powers” after a Sainsbury’s employee won an employment tribunal claim for sexual harassment, following a 2016 incident. 

The regulator then asked Sainsbury’s to provide information and documentation on its safeguarding procedures for employees. 

According to the EHRC, while improvements had been made to its understanding, policies, practices and procedures since the tribunal, further progress “could be made”. As a result, the legally binding document was signed between the two groups.  

The latest agreement is due to last for 18 months and will be effective from this summer.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, CEO 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 added: “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.”

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.”

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