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Third party harassment provisions removed from Worker Protection Bill by House of Lords

Adrian FryerThe House of Lords have amended the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill to remove the proposed third-party harassment provisions. Following a debate in July 2023, the Bill has been republished with the original clause 1 (which dealt with third party harassment) removed in its entirety. Objections in the Lords included the cost to businesses, curtailment of free speech and worries about excessive state intervention in business.

Between 2008 and 2013 there was a limited right to claim against the employer for third party harassment based on a ‘3 strikes’ rule: employees had a right to claim if they suffered a third incident of harassment where the employer already knew of two previous incidents. The removed clause in the Worker Protection Bill had set out a wider proposal: that liability for harassment by third parties would arise without there needing to be a prior incident unless the employer could show they took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment taking place. The removal of this clause means that the Worker Protection Bill will move back to the House of Commons for consideration of amendments without any express provision in relation to third party harassment.

The proposed positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment remains in the Worker Protection Bill, with a slight amendment so that the employer is no longer required to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment, but merely “reasonable steps”. This looks like a watering-down of the duty, something which was acknowledged by the House of Lords in debate.

For more information please contact a member of our Employment team.