The Law Society has warned that removing certain provisions from the Equality Act will not help employers following the Government publishing a series of amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill this week.
The amendments abolish the Equality Act provisions on third party harassment and the use of claimant questionnaires in discrimination claims, both of which the Law Society believe can in fact be beneficial to employers as well as employees.
Under section 40 of the Equality Act an employer is not held responsible for the third party’s actions in themselves, but for failing to act where they have been told of the harassment; when it has happened on at least two previous occasions; and where the employer has not taken such steps as would have been reasonably practicable to prevent the harassment.
Chair of the Law Society Employment Law Committee, Angharad Harris, commented on the changes:
“Harassment is unacceptable in any workplace. The benefit of the third party harassment provision was that it has encouraged best practice amongst employers and this in turn helps to reduce potential incidents of harassment at work.”
Speaking on the abolition of the use of claimant questionnaires in discrimination claims, Angharad Harris said:
“The questionnaire procedure can also help employers because it encourages an employee to ask all of their questions at once, rather than through a series of informal questions which make it harder for an employer than if they had been raised all at once.
“Questionnaires also discourage those cases that have no merit.”
The Law Society says that business concerns could have been addressed through better guidance on how to deal with third party harassment and how to answer questionnaires.
Angharad Harris added:
“Most employers want to do the right thing, and want clear advice to understand how employment law affects them.”