Earlier this year, the government announced that they would be supporting the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill (“The Bill”). The Bill aimed to strengthen the existing worker protection laws outlined in the Equality Act 2010. It comes as a response to growing concerns about the rights and well-being of workers in various industries.
The Bill was originally drafted to include the following:
- A mandatory duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the course of employment.
- Employment tribunals having the power to award an uplift of 25% to an employee’s compensation where the employer is found to have breached the new duty.
- Protection against harassment of employees by third parties (e.g. customers, clients), meaning that employers could be liable if they fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent a third party from harassing an employee.
However, through its passage through Parliament, The Bill raised some concerns about the impact of these new protections on freedom of speech and the increased regulatory burden would have on businesses.
Following a debate on 14 July 2023, it was agreed that the Bill would be amended as follows:
- Removal of the proposed third-party harassment protection. There will be no changes in legislation regarding an employer’s liability for third party harassment. Under current legislation, employers may be liable if there has been a discriminatory act on the basis of a protected characteristic.
- There is no longer a duty for employers to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment, they must now simply take ‘reasonable steps’ (removal of the word ‘all’ seems to lower obligations).
During the parliamentary debate, the government confirmed these amendments (which they would seek to accept) would mean that the law in relation to employer liability for third-party harassment would remain as it has been since 1 October 2013.
The Bill is now in the final stages with the amendments being considered. If accepted, the Bill could receive Royal Assent sometime this year.
If you have any queries around the Worker Protection Bill and what steps will be required, please get in touch with our employment team.