Worker Protection Act 2023 – Workers to get more protection from sexual harassment
Emily Dunham – 6 November 2023
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will now become law, having been approved in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and given royal assent. The bill was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, and places a duty on employers to stop harassment in the workplace, rather than relying on employees to report incidents themselves. The law, in essence, creates a preventative duty, as it makes employers liable to their employees if they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment.
UK women’s rights charity The Fawcett Society are a high-profile supporter of the bill, and report that a minimum of 40% of women in the workforce experience some sort of sexual harassment over the course of their career. The changes, it is argued, move us towards a culture of prevention rather than redress. The Liberal Democrats also feel that the bill can shift the culture in workplaces to one where harassment is not tolerated.
The bill received cross-party support from MPs in the House of Commons, but faced more significant opposition in the House of Lords, leading to some changes to its wording and provisions. Whilst the bill originally contained a section to make employers liable for harassment by third parties, including customers and suppliers, this was scrapped while making its way through the House of Lords. Members of the House of Lords also changed the wording of the law, which originally required that employers take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent harassment, but has been changed to ‘reasonable steps’, which could include enforcing training and impartially investigating incidents.