Protecting staff at Sainsbury’s from sexual harassment

Sainsbury’s section 23 agreement


Sainsbury’s entered a legally binding agreement with us after a member of their staff won an employment tribunal claim for sexual harassment.


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. We reached the view that further progress could be made and entered into an agreement.

Why we were involved:

We are committed to ensuring that employers are held to account for discrimination, harassment and victimisation so that all workers are treated fairly.

This remains a priority for us in our Strategic Plan 2022 to 2025. Read our Strategic Plan.

What we did:

We worked closely with Sainsbury’s to enter into a legal agreement, known as a section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006.

The agreement required Sainsbury’s to take all reasonable steps to prevent its employees from committing harassment and included:

  • 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
  • providing regular reports to us on its progress.

Sainsbury’s provided updates to the Commission every six months on the current status of all of the action points contained within the agreement.

What happened:

We monitored Sainsbury’s compliance with the action plan to ensure the agreed steps were completed.

As a result of the agreement:

  • over 151,000 colleagues attended Diversity and Inclusion training
  • 16,200 managers attended refresher training on a variety of equality and diversity related areas
  • a guide for managers and employees on Discrimination, Bullying, Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Victimisation has been produced
  • improvements have been made to manager specific Employee Relations training

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: 

“The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is our highest priority and we have worked closely with the EHRC to further develop our training, policies and processes. We now have additional measures which underline our zero tolerance to any form of abuse or harassment.”

Who will benefit and how?

Harassment at work in all its different forms has a significant negative effect on workers and research shows that many women and men experience barriers in reporting it. All employers have a duty of care to protect their workers and are responsible for ensuring that workers do not face harassment in their workplace.

By implementing these improvements, Sainsbury’s is helping its employees to understand and identify acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, the process for raising and progressing complaints; and the range of consequences for being found to have engaged in unacceptable behaviours. By doing so it is putting in place measures with the aim of reducing the likelihood of future incidents of harassment taking place and will set the tone and standard for others to follow.

Everyone deserves a safe working environment and the lessons of the #MeToo movement highlighted the importance of ensuring that all employees, including our essential workers, are protected against harassment and that our workplaces are fit for the values of the twenty-first century.

Last updated: 28 Apr 2022