Uncategorized

Proposed law for sexual harassment is now presented

lund elmer
In March 2022, the former government and labor market parties entered into a three-party agreement that, among other things, aims to strengthen efforts against sexual harassment in Danish workplaces. However, several initiatives to combat sexual harassment in the workplace require amendments to both the Equal Treatment, Occupational Health and Safety, and Vocational Education Laws, which have now been formally presented in a proposed law on February 1st, 2023.

The proposed changes aim to strengthen efforts against sexual harassment and clarify the employer’s responsibility in harassment cases to address the unwanted culture that can occur in Danish workplaces.

Specific changes:

The proposed law contains a wide range of changes, with the most significant highlighted below:

  • A linguistic update of the term “sex harassment,” which is currently used in the Equal Treatment Act but will be changed to “sexual harassment” in the future
  • An amendment to the Equal Treatment Act will give the aggrieved employee the right to seek compensation for injury directly from the employee who committed the violation, in addition to any compensation from the employer.
  • The employer’s obligation to provide a harassment-free working environment should be directly stated in the Equal Treatment Act. The aim is to clarify the employer’s responsibility for preventing and handling cases of sexual harassment.
  • The compensation level should be increased by one-third in serious cases of sexual harassment, such as if the aggrieved person belongs to a vulnerable group, such as students and apprentices.
  • A number of non-exhaustive criteria should be introduced to courts and tribunals to assess compensation, as it can be difficult to determine the appropriate level of compensation. The employer’s preventive efforts, such as personnel policies, should be given weight, for example.
  • The court should be able to consider the parties’ statements when assessing whether there is evidence of actual circumstances that suggest sexual harassment
  • It should be made clear that managers and employees are required to report incidents of sexual harassment if they become aware of them
  • The Vocational Education Act should include a provision stating that students and apprentices who experience sexual harassment may disregard the current one-month deadline for terminating a training agreement. Sexual harassment should be considered an involuntary reason for terminating a training agreement
  • The law proposes that the amendments should come into effect as early as April 2023.

Read the proposed law here.

Lund Elmer Sandager’s comment

After the three-party agreement was signed in March 2022, a study by the National Research Center for Working Environment in August 2022 estimated that about 22.2% of Danish wage earners had experienced an incident of unwanted sexual attention and harassment in their workplace within the past 12 months.

The estimate shows that focus on prevention and handling of cases of sexual harassment will only become an even more critical focus area for Danish employers in the future, as the proposed changes – if and when they are passed – will mean that the employer’s responsibilities and obligations in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace will be scrutinized.

If, as a Danish employer and workplace, you are to comply with the new regulations, it may, among other things, be necessary to implement changes in the current work culture and introduce new guidelines, including specific personnel policies for behavior and work environment.

If you want specific advice on how best to prevent and handle cases of sexual harassment, or if you have questions about the topic, please contact one of our employment law specialists; partner Michael Møller Nielsen, associate partner Julie Flindt Rasmussen, or lawyer David Bar-Shalom.

**UPDATE

The law was passed by a broad majority in the Danish Parliament on March 23, 2023.