Andrew Crudge, a solicitor at Thomas Eggar, comments on reports of government proposals to water down sexual harassment laws, by protecting companies from claims of "third party" harassment at work.
The government’s proposal is not beneficial, is not demanded and will not be effective. What businesses really need is a growing economy, not a chipping away of discrimination protection.
The government is desperate to show businesses that it is taking action to reduce the burden of unnecessary legislation. The proposal to remove employers’ liability for harassment of employees by third parties is the latest example of this.
But taking away this protection for employees will not achieve the government’s aim. The government argues that there has been just one case involving third party harassment since it was introduced, but if it is so rarely used then surely the burden it creates is minimal. In fact, the greater burden for businesses is the constant reshaping of employment laws which requires new processes and training. This change is not widely demanded: in the consultation response only 20% of respondents were in favour of its repeal, while 71% were against it!
Even with the change, employees may still be able to rely on other provisions in the Equality Act to protect them against third party harassment. Employers will still need to take action and so it’s difficult to see how their legislative burden would be reduced