Workers can sometimes experience harassment from third parties such as clients or visitors, and it is the employer’s duty to protect their employees in such cases. Failure to take reasonable steps to deal with third-party harassment can leave employers open to tribunal claims.
Therefore the government, in a somewhat controversial move has repealed sections 40(2) and (4) of the Equality Act 2010, which ends the employer being liable for harassment of an employee by a third party, such as a customer, supplier or visitor.
Protection from third-party harassment was enshrined in law by the 2010 Act, where the liability was limited to where the employer knew that the employee had been subjected to such conduct on two prior occasions and failed to take reasonably practical steps to prevent the harassment.
It is thought that this repeal was part of the government’s aim to simplify and limit the regulation.
It is also thought that no more than a handful of claims have been made for third party harassment since 2010 and therefore the repeal was clearly a symbolic act rather than aiming at preventing the threat of any real litigation.
Nevertheless the above repeal came into effect on 1 October 2013, with the memorably named Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (Commencement No.3, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2013.
Although theoretically the removal of the employer’s liability may reduce the risk of claims but the question is will it actually help our economy?