By Daniel Barnett, Emplaw Services
The House of Lords have amended the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill to remove the proposed third party harassment provisions.
Following a debate in July 2023, the Bill has been republished with the original clause 1 (which dealt with third party harassment) removed in its entirety.
Objections in the Lords included the cost to businesses, curtailment of free speech and worries about excessive state intervention in business. This revised version of the Bill had its third reading in the House of Lords yesterday and no further changes were made.
Between 2008 and 2013 there was a limited right to claim against the employer for third party harassment based on a ‘3 strikes’ rule: employees had a right to claim if they suffered a third incident of harassment where the employer already knew of two previous incidents. The removed clause in the Worker Protection Bill had set out a wider proposal: that liability for harassment by third parties would arise without there needing to be a prior incident unless the employer could show they took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment taking place.
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, especially given the Telegraph reported earlier this year that ministers were already getting cold feet about the proposal.
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.
Daniel will be talking about the Worker Protection Bill, as well as other important changes expected in 2024, during his HR Secrets Tour of the UK in November.