Duncan Lewis

Government’s plans to scrap third party liability of an employer is fundamentally flawed says The Law Society

Date: (14 August 2012)    |    

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The plans of government to scrap an employer’s liability for a third party harassment of an employee has been criticised as being ‘fundamentally flawed’, by the Law Society.
The Government Equalities Office consultation on the proposed plans has been closed on 7 August. The plan debates that such liability was an arduous burden on the businesses and was a disheartening factor which along with a number of other employment red tape would discourage employers from taking on more staff.
The Society argues that the government had not quantified the burden that the present third party harassment rules impose on employers and also that there were no reported evidence which proves that the burden was onerous.
Current provisions require employers to act when they have been informed of the harassment and when it has happened on at least two previous occasions. The employer is not held responsible for the third party’s actions, but is held liable for failing to address them.
The consultation document also argued that the provisions served no useful purpose because there have been few prosecutions under them.
In response the Society, points to 2007 research which shows considerable evidence of third party harassment, in particular on the grounds of race and sexual orientation. It argues that the few prosecutions that have taken place since the Equality Act 2010 came into force show that the provisions in fact did have a deterrent effect, with employers displaying notices warning customers that harassment will not be tolerated and advising staff on what to do should such harassment occur.
The Society’s response further says that alternative ways of raising proceedings against third party harassers, such as claiming under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, would also place an administrative burden on employers and require appearing before a criminal court, which is more costly than appearing before a tribunal.
The logic behind the proposal to remove the provisions just because very few cases have been brought for prosecution and that it places a regulatory burden on employers was fundamentally flawed, the Society had said in response.

 

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