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Government backtrack on the Worker Protection Bill

The Bill will no longer re-introduce employer liability for the harassment of employees by third parties


Two female waitresses waiting for food order

As you may recall from our e-news dated 20th June 2023, the Worker Protection Bill is currently making its way through Parliament.

However, following concerns regarding free speech and how the Bill would affect businesses, the Bill will no longer re-introduce employer liability for the harassment of employees by third parties.

The Bill had initially been backed by the Government however during the committee stage in the House of Lords on 14th July 2023 the Government recognised the need for compromise to ensure the safe passage of the Bill.

The Private Member’s Bill will now undergo two significant amendments to remove clause 1 relating to third party harassment and to water down the duty to prevent sexual harassment under clause 2.

The amendments follow fears voiced by Conservative peers who stressed the need to consider the impact that the Bill would have on employers, particularly small businesses who may have struggled to implement the Bill in its current draft.

In relation to sexual harassment, the original duty placed on employers was to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent employees from being sexually harassed. The amendment will redraft the clause to impose a lower duty so that only ‘reasonable steps’ will now have to be taken.

Whilst commentators have been quick to condemn the Government for diluting the protection afforded under the Bill, Baroness Scott of Bybrook was keen to point out that, ‘While it could be said that the duty in Clause 2 to take “reasonable steps” is a lower bar than “all reasonable steps”, it has to be remembered that this will be a new duty. As such, a duty to take reasonable steps is still an improvement for employees in respect of sexual harassment, compared to the status quo.’

The Bill is now scheduled for report stage on 5th September 2023.

More information on the background of the Bill can be read here in our previous article.

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