A thought provoking defence of the Equality Act from the Law Society:
The Law Society has warned that removing certain provisions from the
Equality Act will not help employers. The warning comes after the
government published a series of amendments to the Enterprise and
Regulatory Reform Bill this week.
The amendments, to be considered in the report stage of the Bill,
abolish the Equality Act provisions on third party harassment (which
make an employer liable for failing to act where their employee has been
harassed by a third party) and the use of claimant questionnaires in
The Law Society has highlighted the fact that these provisions 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 is unacceptable in any workplace," says Chair of the Law
Society Employment Law Committee Angharad Harris. "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."
"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."
When in doubt, the Law Society advises employers to get in touch with their local solicitor.