Furniture giant Ikea has entered into a legal agreement with the UK’s human rights watchdog after it was alleged to be mishandling complaints of sexual harassment and assault.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’s intervention, known as a Section 23 Agreement, will see Ikea review the way it deals with sexual harassment, following a complaint made to the commission by a former employee.
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Ikea has agreed to communicate a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment to its staff; work with a specialist external legal partner to review its policies and processes and improve its responses to complaints; and train its management staff in the improved policies and processes.
Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the EHRC, said: “No matter how big or small, every employer is responsible for protecting its workforce and sexual harassment should not be tolerated.
“As Britain’s equality regulator we help employers to understand the law and we take action to prevent it from being breached. In signing this agreement, Ikea UK has taken an important step towards ensuring their staff are better protected from harassment.”
The EHRC first contacted Ikea UK in February 2022, after it was made aware that allegations of sexual assault and harassment may have been mishandled by the management at one of Ikea’s UK stores.
The agreement is likely to last until August 2025, until which point the EHRC will monitor Ikea’s progress and enforce any changes if necessary.
The EHRC’s agreement with Ikea comes just six weeks after it confirmed a similar Section 23 Agreement with McDonalds. The EHRC currently has 17 such agreements in place with employers across the UK.
Falkner added: “Employers should not assume that a low level of reporting means there is no problem with sexual harassment in the workplace, or that policies and procedures alone are enough to stop harassment from happening.
“Sexual harassment needs to be dealt with very seriously. The training and development work already completed at the store where the complaint emerged is a welcome sign of Ikea’s commitment to better practice.”
Darren Taylor, people and culture manager at Ikea UKI, said: “Over the coming two and a half years we will continue to work collaboratively with the EHRC to ensure the best possible working environment for our people.
“We have robust policies and procedures in place to protect our co-workers and we take our responsibility to do so incredibly seriously, however, we also recognise and welcome opportunities to review and strengthen our approaches even further.
“At Ikea, we do not tolerate harassment of any kind.”