Employers are being urged to act in readiness, with the proposed legislation set for its third reading in February and expected to become law during the next year.
Harassment in the workplace is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010 and once passed, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill 2022-23 will extend the range of safeguards for employees. One is protection against third party harassment during the course of their employment, such as by customers or clients, and the employer may be held liable if they fail “to take all reasonable steps to prevent the third party from doing so”.
The Bill also tackles sexual harassment suffered by employees in the course of their employment, by placing a new duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent such harassment. The current proposal suggests that the penalty where the employer is found to have breached their duty for any sexual harassment claim will be 25% higher under the new legislation, as an uplift to the compensation awarded has been proposed.
“While the Bill is still going through parliament, employers should be gearing up in readiness, and ensuring the right processes are in place,” explained Katie Ash, Head of Employment Law at Banner Jones Solicitors in Sheffield.
Katie added: “It all adds up to a tough new round of legislation for employers. The harassment by third parties is particularly difficult as it can relate to someone over whom the employer has no direct control, with liability set to apply whether or not the employer is aware of the actions of the third party.”
“The benchmark is likely to be high, to encourage employers to be proactive in tackling discrimination in the workplace. Any tribunal will be looking for robust policies and evidence of ‘all reasonable steps’ taken to actively prevent harassment. One example of steps that an employer could take is to show evidence of training that has been given to all line managers. Regular training can help to give line managers the tools to spot and deal with the signs of harassment. If you don’t have a robust training plan in place, then we can help. We run employment law-based training for employers of all sizes to help give them the protection they need.”
If you or your business have been affected by any of the issues raised in thi column, contact Katie Ash, Banner Jones Solicitors Sheffield Office, 3rd Floor, Leopold Street, Sheffield, S1 2GY, 0114 358 3294