Article written by Noella Gooden, Employment Solicitor (Australian qualified)
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill (the Bill) proposes new obligations for employers to prevent harassment. The new legislation is set to impose a proactive duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment of its employees to include harassment by third parties. It is important for employers to prepare in advance and familiarise themselves with the Bill as it is very likely to become law, although there is not a proposed date as yet.
Harassment in the workplace is protected under the Equality Act 2010. Once passed, the Bill aims to extend the range of employee safeguards.
An example of one of the safeguarding factors relates to third-party harassment of staff – i.e. from clients and customers. Under the reform, the employer would be liable if they fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent the third party from such acts.
The Bill also tackles sexual harassment experienced by employees and penalties are likely to be higher for an employer found to have breached their duty for any sexual harassment claim. An uplift of up to 25% of the compensation award is being proposed to be added.
As the Bill is going through parliament, employers should review their practices and ensure they have the right processes in place. Potential steps for employers to prepare themselves for the Bill could include:
- Carrying out assessments of roles and how they interact with third parties.
- Creating or updating central registers and processes for complaints of harassment.
- Identifying the risk of harassment and implementing measures to protect employees.
- Circulating anti-harassment policies and offering staff training to avoid the threat of harassment while educating those that witness it on how to act.
- Implementing signage and advising all stakeholders that threats, violence and harassment will not be tolerated under any means.
If you would like to discuss the Bill and how this may impact your business or for more information on a specific employment law matter, please feel free to email me or contact the Employment team on 020 8858 6971.