Third party harassment provisions are being repealed from today meaning rules which previously made an employer liable if an employee was harassed by a third party such as a client or supplier no longer apply.
In May 2012, the government launched a consultation process stating that it intended to repeal the third party harassment provisions because there was “no evidence to suggest that the third party harassment provisions are serving a practical purpose or are an appropriate or proportionate manner of dealing with the type of conduct that they are intended to cover”.
On the face of it this was welcome news to employers, however the repeal of the third party harassment provisions does not mean that employers will never face liability arising from the harassment of their staff by a third party.
There is a risk that where a discrimination or harassment claim is brought as a result of the conduct of employees, any evidence of failure to deal with third party harassment may undermine the employer’s ‘reasonable steps’ defence.
Employers should now take steps to prevent third party harassment, both as a means of avoiding potential liability and in the interest of employee relations. The action taken will depend on the type of employer and the nature of the risk of harassment, but might include making people who come into contact with staff aware of the employer’s harassment policy, and encouraging workers to report concerns if they become victim of or witness harassment in the workplace.
Please contact our Employment and Human Resource Management Team for help protecting your business.