What do you need to know about third-party harassment?

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Recently it was announced there would be some amendments to the Equality Act 2010, specifically in relation to third party harassment. The Government wish to repeal this specific provision. It’s not a popular move as many bodies and agencies have opposed this decision in the fear that employers are relieved from their responsibilities. So what does this mean for employers? Does it change anything? Third party harassment is simply when an individual or organisation, who is not directly under the control of the employer, harasses its employees by way of bullying, intimidating or making inappropriate remarks and gestures which cause upset and stress to the employee. Currently, employers can be held liable if they fail to protect their employees from third party harassment. Despite the Government’s intention to repeal this provision, employers still have a duty of care towards their employees. Furthermore, the Equality Act 2010 is there to protect individuals from discrimination, so employers could still be in breach of this Act if they fail to make a stand to protect their employees. So nothing really changes from the employer’s perspective. We would always advise if clients and customers regularly come onto your site to conduct business, have clear signage stating the company stance that inappropriate behaviour, intimidation and bullying of staff will not tolerated. Do your policies and procedures have a policy on Dignity at Work and Bullying and Harassment? These policies should include statements that the company do not tolerate such behaviour from colleagues or customers. This document should advise the employee what to do and who to report this unwanted behaviour to. As always no point in having a policy in place if it is not referred to or implemented from the top. Therefore training sessions to all staff and in particular management highlighting what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviour are important in getting the message across. A few simple steps can help your employees believe you are on their side to help them do their best in the job.

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