- Written by
- Elliott Flockhart, Solicitor
The House of Lords has amended the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill to remove the proposed third party harassment provisions. The original clause 1 of the Bill, which dealt with third party harassment, has been removed in its entirety.
The reasons for this amendment include the cost to businesses, the curtailment of free speech, and worries about excessive state intervention in business. The revised version of the Bill had its third reading in the House of Lords yesterday and no further changes were made.
The removal of this clause means that the Worker Protection Bill moves forward without any express provision in relation to third party harassment. It will now go back to the Commons for consideration of amendments. It is always possible, of course, that the Commons will seek to re-introduce the third party harassment provisions but this is unlikely.
The proposed positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment remains in the Worker Protection Bill, with a slight amendment so that the employer is no longer required to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment, but merely “reasonable steps”. This looks like a watering-down of the duty, something which was acknowledged by the House of Lords in debate.
The amendment to the Worker Protection Bill is a setback for those who had hoped to see stronger protections against third party harassment in the workplace. However, the positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment remains in place, and this is a welcome development.
The Bill is now in the hands of the Commons, and it will be interesting to see if they seek to re-introduce the third party harassment provisions. If they do not, the Bill will become law without any express provision in relation to third party harassment.
In the meantime, employers should continue to take steps to prevent all forms of harassment in the workplace, including third party harassment. This includes having clear policies and procedures in place, providing training to employees, and responding promptly to any allegations of harassment.
What does this mean for employers?
The removal of the third party harassment provisions from the Worker Protection Bill means that employers will no longer be liable for harassment of their employees by third parties, unless they can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment taking place.
This is a significant change, and it is important for employers to be aware of the implications. They should review their policies and procedures on harassment to ensure that they are still adequate to protect their employees. They should also provide training to their employees on how to identify and report harassment.
What are the next steps?
The Worker Protection Bill will now go back to the Commons for consideration of amendments. It is possible that the Commons will seek to re-introduce the third party harassment provisions, but this is unlikely.
If the Bill is passed without the third party harassment provisions, it will become law and employers will need to comply with its requirements.
What can I do to protect my employees from harassment?
There are a number of things that employers can do to protect their employees from harassment, including:
- Having clear policies and procedures in place on harassment
- Providing training to employees on how to identify and report harassment
- Creating a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting harassment
- Taking prompt action to investigate and address allegations of harassment
By taking these steps, employers can help to create a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected.
For further information, please contact a member of our employment team on 020 8290 0440.
10 May 2023
Advice | 6 October 2022
News | 5 May 2022
Advice | 10 December 2021
Advice | 10 November 2021
Advice | 29 March 2021