There are huge concerns that the government backed Worker Protection Bill is likely to fail despite receiving initial support from the government. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Equality Act 2010 to make employers liable for harassment of their employees by third parties (such as customers or clients) and to introduce a specific duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment of their employees.
Highlighting the need for the Worker Protection Bill, the campaigners say that reform is essential to protect staff in the workplace and to drive the culture change necessary to tackle violence against workers as well as other forms of harassment and discrimination. The reforms will mean that employers must take harassment seriously and take preventative measures to protect workers rather than wait for an incident to occur.
Research by the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) found 58% of women reported suffering harassment or abuse in the workplace and it was even higher for LGBT+, disabled, and Black women but these figures are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg as 79% of women do not report their experiences. Most cases occurred on work premises but also happened via phone, text message, emails, and via social media or virtual meetings. And rather than being isolated incidents they were often repeated.
Sexual harassment and other forms of harassment are a daily part workers lives, and it must be addressed. The bill would seek to address these issues and make a significant and important step towards creating more inclusive, respectful and safe workplace cultures which protect workers from unacceptable physical and verbal abuse and harassment. If organisations are clear about what is expected of their staff, it will not only help to reduce inappropriate behaviour but also ensure that where it happens, employees have a clear path to follow to deal with it.
Dropping the bill could inevitably put vulnerable staff at risk, so we will keep you posted on developments in this regard as news is released.
For further information on the worker protection bill and anti-harassment policies and training, please contact us here.