The government’s decision to repeal sections of the Equality Act less than two years after their introduction has been branded by unions as an attempt to “let bad bosses off the hook”.
Provisions in the Equality Act 2010 that make employers liable for the harassment of their staff by third parties such as customers or suppliers will now be repealed, the government confirmed yesterday. A date has not been set for the move, however, as it has yet to respond officially to a consultation on removing the statute, which was launched in May. At the time, the government described the provision as “unworkable” because employers had no direct control over how third parties behave towards their staff. Other measures included in its Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, meanwhile, include a requirement for employment tribunals to order employers that breach equal pay provisions to undertake an equal pay audit, except from in limited circumstances. Provisions in the Equality Act that enable individuals who believe that they have been discriminated against to gather information from their employer and use it as evidence during the proceedings will also be repealed. Jo Swinson, minister for employment relations and consumer affairs, said: “The changes to the Act will help strengthen the business environment and boost confidence by sweeping away needless bureaucracy and out-of-date rules.” But Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, disagreed. He attested that the government’s U-turns “make a mockery” of the claim that ‘equality is at the heart of this coalition government’. “These changes are in line with wider government plans to weaken employment rights and let bad bosses off the hook. This is no way to create the decent full-time jobs that this country so desperately needs,” Barber said. In news elsewhere, the Serious Fraud Office signalled that it was cracking down on corruption, after it scrapped previous guidance in relation to the Bribery Act and warned that it would now prosecute employers for any breaches based solely on the law. In the past, the SFO said it would take factors such as whether a company had an anti-bribery policy in place and the scale of any unlawful payments into account before prosecuting. But it has now warned that action will taken against organisations offering unlawful corporate hospitality or making facilitation “if there is a realistic prospect of conviction”.