Sainsbury’s agrees to legally binding agreement with equality watchdog

Published: 05 Aug 2020

Leading supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, has signed a legally binding document with us 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, and
  • providing regular reports to us 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.”

We started working with Sainsbury’s in January 2019. We wrote to the retailer stating that we were considering using our 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. We asked Sainsbury’s to provide information and documentation on its safeguarding procedures for employees. While we recognised that the household name had made improvements to its understanding, policies, practices and procedures since the judgement, we 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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