You may remember that in our more recent employment law updates, we told you that one piece of law to keep an eye on was the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill (the Bill) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-legislation-horizon-return-third-party-harassment-bmcprecept. Well, as promised, we have been keeping an eye on it and we have a development to report…
The Bill looks to do 2 main things:
- To introduce a legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work; and
- To reintroduce the concept of third party harassment in the workplace, whereby staff are protected from harassment from customers and clients.
Women’s groups and trade unions have labelled the Bill as “essential” whereas Conservative backbenchers and peers have more recently Poo-pooed the proposals contained within it. According to recent reports, Ministers are expected to withdraw their support for the Bill, meaning it will fall into the abyss.
There are some scary stats about the levels of workplace harassment, indicating that sexual harassment is “endemic” in the workplace (according to business secretary Kemi Badenoch, along with the TUC, Fawcett Society and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust). Somewhere around half of working women will experience workplace harassment and that is even higher for LGBTQIA+, disabled and black women. However, any stats that we do have don’t show the full picture because a staggering estimated 79% do not report their experiences…scary stuff!
The reforms contained within the Bill would mean employers would have to take preventative measures to protect workers rather than just waiting for an incident to occur and then dealing with it.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “…sexual harassment is happening on an industrial scale in workplaces across Britain.
“The time for excuses is over. We urgently need to strengthen protections to protect workers. The government must come clean about its plans. Will it support this much-needed legislation and help keep women and workers safe from harassment? Or will it cave into the demands from its backbenchers?”
Fawcett Society chief executive Jemima Olchawski added: “We need to see a serious commitment from this government to better protect women at work.
“It’s nothing short of scandalous that some Tory Peers have sought to play politics with a bill which would offer the first significant increase in protections for women since the #MeToo movement. Women deserve and demand better. It’s time for this government to deliver.”
So, whilst nothing is confirmed one way or the other yet – it seems this could be the casualty of another government U-turn…watch this space…we will of course keep you updated!