Government introduces Worker Protection Bill to tackle workplace harassment

New legislation aims to hold employers liable for harassment by third parties

The UK Government has introduced the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill, which seeks to make employers liable for harassment suffered by their employees at the hands of third parties, including sexual harassment.

This landmark legislation marks a significant step towards creating a safer and more inclusive working environment for all employees, regardless of gender or background.

Under the current law, employers can only be held responsible for harassment committed by their employees. This means that if a customer or client harasses an employee, the employer has no legal obligation to take action. This loophole has often left workers vulnerable to harassment and abuse, particularly in the hospitality, retail, and healthcare industries.

Holding employers accountable

The new legislation seeks to close this gap by making employers liable for harassment by any third party on their premises. This means that employers will be legally required to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment and respond appropriately when it occurs. Failure to do so could result in legal action and financial penalties.

The move has been widely welcomed by campaigners and industry leaders alike, who say the new law will help create a more equal and diverse workplace. Sexual harassment, in particular, has been a long-standing issue in many industries, with women and other marginalised groups often bearing the brunt of such behaviour.

By holding employers accountable for harassment by third parties, the Worker Protection Bill sends a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated. It also puts the onus on employers to create a safe and inclusive working environment for all employees, regardless of their background or position.

Significant step

Overall, the Worker Protection Bill represents a significant step towards creating a more equal and inclusive workplace in the UK. By holding employers accountable for harassment by third parties, the government is sending a clear message that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated and that all employees have the right to feel safe and respected at work.

Jim Moore, the employee relations expert at HR consultants Hamilton Nash, said: “Legitimate concerns over the Worker Protection Bill are being drowned out by some figures who seem happy to sacrifice staff safeguarding on the altar of ‘woke’ politics.

“Protecting front-line workers from harassment and abuse is an ambition to be welcomed, and it is right that employers should take all reasonable steps to prevent such aggravation.

“The Bill would take effect only where harassment relates to protected characteristics like race, sex or gender, so fears of silencing, of free speech, are unfounded. 

“It does not mean that employees can sue for being offended. The employer is only liable if they haven’t taken reasonable steps to prevent the harassment. This could include clear messaging to customers, having a policy in place ready for when incidents occur, and intervening when harassment has occurred.

“Retail workers, NHS employees and pub staff have a right to do their jobs without facing racism, sexist or homophobic abuse. 

“Forward-thinking employers are already doing their best to stop such behaviour among customers, and this Bill will ensure that all businesses take this responsibility seriously.”

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