Harassed workers to lose right to bring claim against employers for failing to protect them

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Thousands of workers such as shop assistants and medical staff who are harassed or attacked at work are set to lose the right to bring a discrimination claim against their employer for failing to protect them, under new legislation.

Next month, the Government is repealing the 'third party harassment' provisions in the Equality Act 2010, which lay the responsibility with employers for staff who are repeatedly harassed at work.

Under the current law, if an employer is aware that a member of staff has been harassed twice and has failed to put in measures to protect the staff member, on the third occasion the worker is harassed then the employer is liable for the harassment.

The Government, which is bringing in the legislation as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform bill, believes the move will help cut red tape and boost business growth.

Jim Lister, head of employment at law firm, Pannone, is warning employers not to be complacent when the third party harassment provisions have been removed as they will still have a duty to protect workers.

"While workers will lose their right to bring a claim for harassment against their employer, it will still be possible for individuals who are repeatedly harassed at work to claim for constructive unfair dismissal if their employer has failed to take reasonable steps to protect them," Lister said.

He added: "They may also attempt to claim, as others did before the third party harassment provisions were introduced, that their employer's failure to protect them from harassment by customers or service users was itself a form of discrimination."

"It's important that the repeal of the third party harassment provisions is not seen as a green light to step back efforts to protect staff from abuse because employers will still have duties to take reasonable steps to protect their health, safety and wellbeing."

Speaking last year when the Government first announced plans for the removal of third party harassment provisions from the Equality Act 2010, Jo Swinson, minister for employment relations and consumer affairs, said: "The changes to the act will help strengthen the business environment and boost confidence, by sweeping away needless bureaucracy and out-of-date rules.

She added: "Clearing away barriers to help businesses grow and invest is an essential part of the Government's plan for growth."

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