According to a recent report by The Telegraph, the government is considering reversing its plans to introduce enhanced safeguards for employees against workplace harassment.

According to the report, it has been found that Conservative MPs are against the Bill as they say that it could spell trouble for employers, making them more likely to face costly legal action being taken against them by disgruntled employees.

These MPS also say that they are concerned that controversial figures could be “expelled” from leisure and hospitality functions due to employers being worried about the threat of legal action from employees with “hurt feelings”.

Former cabinet minister Lord Frost has called the Bill a “woke, socialist measure” which would have a “chilling effect on every conversation in the workplace”.

Trade Unions across the UK including the Trade Union Congress have pleaded with Government not to drop the Bill.  General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Paul Nowak said “It would be utterly shameful if the government allows this bill to fall”.

“Ministers promised to bring in new laws to tackle sexual harassment, but now appear to be backsliding. Let’s not forget – women are experiencing sexual harassment and abuse on an industrial scale. 

“And we know many in public-facing jobs – like shop workers and GP receptionists – suffer abuse and harassment regularly from clients and customers”.

Rishi Sunak must not abandon vulnerable staff. These protections are essential.”

A Government representative told The Telegraph that it was “alive to the concerns that have been made” but they said that there wouldn’t be time to debate any changes to the Bill before the end of this parliamentary session which makes the “passage of the bill impossible”.

What is proposed in the Worker Protection Bill?

The Bill establishes employer accountability for third-party harassment of employees and workers, as well as introduces a new obligation to proactively address such incidents as sexual harassment.

Employers who turn a blind eye to harassment or do not try to prevent harassment could have enforcement action taken against them by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The Bill proposes giving Employment Tribunals the authority to enhance compensation by up to 25% in cases where an employer has failed to fulfil their duty in successful harassment claims. The Bill’s coverage is comprehensive, extending to harassment by any third party, including customers, contractors, or suppliers during employment. Moreover, the Bill aims to cover harassment based on any of the below protected characteristics:

  • Race
  • Gender and sexual orientation as well as sexual harassment
  • Gender re-assignment
  • Age
  • Religion or faith
  • Disability

The Bill excludes marriage, civil partnership, maternity and pregnancy as they are not included in the current protection from harassment.

Employers can be held responsible for even just a single instance of harassment unless they can demonstrate that they did everything reasonably possible to prevent it from happening.

Employers should still take action to address workplace harassment, even though the Bill may not pass. They should consider the following:

  • Is there a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment?

If not, what steps can be taken to establish one? Review policies and consider training.

  • Are contracts with third parties, such as suppliers and customers, inclusive of provisions on harassment?
  • Do you provide adequate support for employees?

Employers should allow employees to report harassment and offer appropriate assistance.

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