Worthingtons Solicitors

Ex-Labour MP ordered to pay £434k in damages to ‘Ms A’ due to sexual assault, harassment and victimisation

A recent remedy judgment handed down by a panel sitting at the Central London Employment Tribunal last week awarded ‘Ms A’, a former parliamentary worker, compensation of £434,435.39. The remedy judgment follows a previous ruling that Ex-Labour MP Mike Hill, the former MP for Hartlepool, was found to have sexually assaulted, harassed, and victimised Ms A over a 16-month period.

The panel upheld every allegation made by Ms A against Mr Hill, which included: a telephone call in which Mr Hill told Ms A that he loved her and could not go ahead with “sharing a flat with her unless he was able to share a bed with her”; Mr Hill subjecting Ms A to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature by entering her bedroom during the night “on many occasions” between December to February 2018 and on two of those occasions, making sexual advances but when rejected, stated that Ms A was “overreacting”, that she must be “frigid or something” and he could “not understand how someone could be celibate for so many years” and there must be “something wrong” with her; and, the Tribunal panel also found that Mr Hill had sexually assaulted Ms A at Westminster.

After Ms A repeatedly rejected Mr Hill’s unwanted advances, he subjected her to ‘detrimental treatment’ by failing to honour a promised pay rise, extending her period of probation, and deactivating her security pass. The Tribunal found that Ms A’s subsequent dismissal was a further act of victimisation by Mr Hill.

In addition to the payment of damages, Mr Hill was also ordered to undertake training about sexual harassment in the workplace.

The decision comes as a report published by the Fawcett Society in October 2021 revealed that at least 40% of women experience sexual harassment during their career. Despite the statistics, the UK government has been accused of delaying a change in the law to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace by Trade Unions who state sexual harassment continues to be a “pervasive problem”. On 21 July 2021, following increased levels of scrutiny prompted by the #MeToo movement, the UK government published a long-awaited response to its “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” consultation (which ran between February and October 2019) committing to bringing forward legislation creating a mandatory “preventative duty” for employers to take “all reasonable steps” to be proactive in preventing sexual harassment at work. The reforms to legislation propose:

  • Explicit protections for employees from harassment by third parties (i.e., customers or clients)
  • Bringing in new guidance and statutory code of practice on how to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace for employers developed by the ECHR
  • Potential extension of time limit allowed to bring a claim for sexual harassment to an employment tribunal from three to six months

However, these reforms are yet to be enacted. The publication offers no firm implementation dates and the only implication of when we could expect to see the reforms to anti-harassment laws is given as “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. It is also unclear as to whether the reforms will extend to NI.

Notwithstanding this, the decision of the Tribunal in Ms A’s case, together with the findings of the Fawcett report, are a stark reminder to employers to ensure their anti-harassment policies are up to date and are not simply a “tick box” exercise. Employers should also ensure that employees receive adequate anti-harassment and equal opportunities training as a preventative measure as opposed to a reactive one.

For further advice and guidance, please contact the Employment Department on 028 9043 4015.

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