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The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill 2022-23, Bill 28 of the 2022-23 session, was introduced on 15 June 2022 by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse as a Private Member’s Bill, presented to Parliament through the ballot procedure.

The Bill passed all Commons stages without opposition, though with Government amendments made to Clause 1 on report stage. For further detail on the background and Commons stages of the Bill, see the Library briefing Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill 2022-23: Progress of the Bill.

In the Lords, the Bill encountered opposition from backbench Conservative Peers, who tabled over 40 amendments ahead of committee stage. Due to a compromise agreement being reached between the Government, the Bill’s sponsor and Conservative backbenchers, two amendments were ultimately accepted during committee stage, which significantly reduce the scope of the Bill, by removing Clause 1 entirely and removing the word “all” from Clause 2.

The Bill, as originally introduced, would have done two things. Firstly, Clause 1 would have created new liabilities for employers in cases of third party harassment of their staff, unless the employer took “all reasonable steps” to prevent it. This would have re-created protections similar to those that originally existed in the Equality Act 2010, but which were removed by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

However, the results of the amendments made at Lords committee stage is that Clause 1 was removed entirely and so no such liability would now be created by the Bill. The situation created in 2013 would remain, with employers having no liability for harassment of their staff by third parties.

The second thing the Bill would have done is through Clause 2, to create a new legal duty, enforceable by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, for employers to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the course of their employment. As a result of amendments made at Lords committee stage, this duty would now only be to take “reasonable steps”, not “all reasonable steps”.

Whereas originally the Bill would have created protections against third party harassment on the basis of any of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, such as race, sex or disability, the remaining provisions in Clause 2 only relate to “sexual harassment”, which has its own specific definition in the Equality Act.

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