Third Party Harassment Abolished 1 October 2013
Third Party Harassment Abolished 1 October
There have been changes to the law on third-party harassment under section 40(2)-(4) of the Equality Act 2010 (‘Act’). The Government has announced that it will remove the third-party harassment provisions from the Act with effect from 1 October 2013.The circumstances where harassment had previously occurred on two occasions and the employer was aware of it, but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening again, then the employer could be held liable. This is known as the ‘three-strikes rule’. Where it occurred, it did not have to be by the same third party (such as a customer or client) or be of the same nature.
The changes serve the purpose of reducing the burden on employers. In the article of the government’s consultation on the Act ‘’Employer liability for harassment of employees by third parties” , it shows the Government’s commitment to strike the balance between protecting people from discrimination and letting businesses get on with the job. In response to the large number of respondents opposing the repeal, the Government stated that in reality very few such cases were actually brought in employment tribunals. The Government viewed it as confusing and unnecessary. The Government believed that the new changes will raise employers’ awareness of their duty of care to employees and encourage the employers to do the ‘right thing’. This will not affect any third party harassment claims in respect of such harassment that occurs before 1 October 2013.
The removal of third party harassment provision from the Act does not minimise the employer’s risk of liability to an employee for harassment by third parties, as employees can still claim under the general harassment provisions of the Act or under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.