Our People
Cutting Through Complexity

Third Party Harassment in the Workplace

17th October 2013

You’ve recently reviewed your policies and procedures and a new comprehensive staff handbook has been put on the intranet. All your staff have received equal opportunities training and know what amounts to harassment. But how do you deal with harassment emanating from third parties, such as agency workers, contractors or members of the public?

The Equality Act 2010 had brought in new provisions which made employers liable in certain circumstances for third party harassment. The repeal of these provisions as of 1 October 2013 will be largely welcomed by employers after the Government recognised that the rules are not effective in practice and add an extra burden on businesses, especially as third parties can be difficult, or indeed impossible, to control.

However, this change doesn’t mean employers don’t have a duty to protect employees – an employer may still be liable for unlawful discrimination if it fails to take proactive steps to deal with third party harassment of its staff once such harassment has been brought to its attention.
It’s therefore important for employers to continue to take reasonable steps to protect their staff from harassment by third parties, including having a policy and drawing it publicly to the attention of those with whom staff come into contact.

If an employee resigns as a result of third party harassment, there may also be cause for a constructive unfair dismissal claim as they could argue that the failure to protect them from harassment was a fundamental breach of their contract of employment and they were forced to quit.

By abolishing the third party harassment law, although the government is cutting red tape for businesses to some degree, it’s vital for employers to remember there are other legal routes which employees can take if they feel they have been harassed by a third party.

[Certain parts of this article were first published by CIPD’s HR Inform in their September 2013 newsletter (behind a pay wall)].

The contents of this update are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this update. © Mundays LLP 2013.

Latest News

Working It Out
Thursday 22nd February 2018

Andrew Knorpel looks at the recent published Government response to the Taylor Review of modern working practices.

Read More

THE GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION 2016 (“GDPR”) CONTRACTUAL UPDATE
Thursday 15th February 2018

The GDPR will be directly applicable in the UK from 25 May 2018. This guidance describes how the GDPR will impact on contracts you are currently negotiating or already have in place and the changes you will need to make.

Read More

Here’s Looking at You
Thursday 8th February 2018

Sophie Banks looks at the hot topic of an employee’s right to privacy in the workplace

Read More