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Third party harassment protection to be repealed

30th September 2013
Under the Equality Act 2010 protection had been given to employees in certain circumstances when they had suffered harassment from third parties. This would include protection from harassment by customers or clients, as opposed to harassment by colleagues or their employer- which is covered separately. This can be significant in a number of industries where a large number of staff are involved in regular dealing with customers, such as shop assistants, waiting staff, bar staff, hotel staff.etc. The law had provided that if the third party (eg customer) had harassed the employee on at least two previous occasions that the employee would be legally protected from further harassment if the employer had also failed to take reasonable practicable steps to stop the further harassment. This meant that employers could not simply decide to ignore such behaviour in order to avoid upsetting the customer concerned, and it highlighted the need for employers to introduce and implement proper policies and procedures to protect staff from such behaviour from their customers, or clients. 
Under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, this particular provision will be removed from the Equality Act. The old law on this area will apply to any incident before the 1st October 2013.
This repeal means that from the 1st October 2013 the law will revert to the old  (ie pre the Equality Act) position. That in turn means that employers will not be liable for harassment of staff by thrid parties unless that employer's failure to prevent such harassment was itself because of the employee's gender/race etc.
This is an unwelcome step for many, particularly those that deal with the public regularly in their work. 
Employers however should not ignore the issue, and should still implement appropriate policies and provide training to staff to deal with this issue.
If you need any help or advice on this matter do not hesitate to contact Hallett Employment Law Services.   
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