Protecting staff from sexual harassment at National Highways

National Highways section 23 agreement


National Highways (formerly Highways England) signed a legally binding agreement with us after a staff member was awarded £74,000 in compensation for sexual harassment and unfair dismissal.


An ex-employee of National Highways was sexually harassed by her boss for months before leaving the organisation. An employment tribunal found in favour of the ex-employee and also ruled she had been constructively dismissed. The staff member was awarded £74,000 in compensation.

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 wrote to National Highways in March 2020 to ensure they had taken the necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment occurring in the future.  

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

The steps adopted by National Highways include measures set out in our technical guidance for employers, which offers a legal explanation and practical examples of how to tackle and respond effectively to harassment.

What happened?

National Highways agreed to implement a number of key measures to address sexual harassment, including:

  • implementing a new Respect at Work Policy
  • updating its E-learning module on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which will be mandatory for all employees
  • refreshing Recruitment and Onboarding materials to reflect best practice
  • appointing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champions
  • launching a new Redeployment Policy
  • practical training in conducting discipline and grievance investigations and hearings for people managers
  • revising their case escalation process
  • legal training for leaders & people managers
  • completing risk assessments in relation to sexual harassment and putting mitigations in place to manage identified risks

We monitored National Highways compliance with the action plan to ensure the agreed steps were completed.

Who will benefit and how?

Everyone deserves to feel respected and safe at work. Yet more than a decade since the Equality Act 2010, and 45 years since the Sexual Discrimination Act first protected women from discrimination at work, it is clear that there is still a long way to go before sexual harassment is a thing of the past.

As an employer responsible for 5,000 people, National Highways committed to providing crucial protection for staff. It conducted a wide-scale review of their employment policies and practices, with a key aim to protect its employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. By implementing these measures, they have also sent a clear message to other organisations that sexual harassment has no place in business or in our society.

Last updated: 28 Apr 2022