THE Government has recently published proposed new amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.
The employment-related amendments include proposals to repeal the provisions in the Equality Act 2010 relating to third party harassment and the discrimination questionnaire procedure. There is also a proposal to give employment tribunals the power to order an employer to carry out a pay audit where it has lost an equal pay claim or discrimination claim relating to non-contractual pay.
Repeal of third party harassment provisions: The Government is proposing to repeal certain sections of the Equality Act 2010, which, in specific circumstances, renders employers liable for harassment of their employees by third parties.
In its response to the consultation, the Government indicated that it viewed these provisions as imposing additional liabilities on employers and that this went against its commitment to support growth and economic recovery. This is despite the consultation revealing there is very little support for such a repeal: only 20% of respondents supported repeal of the third party harassment provisions, while 71% opposed it.
Abolishing discrimination questionnaires: The response to the consultation reveals that the Government views the discrimination questionnaire procedure as “prescriptive and potentially threatening to employers”, so it intends to proceed with its proposal to repeal section 138 of the Equality Act 2010. In fact, only a minority of respondents were in favour of repealing section 138 whereas 83% were opposed to it.
Power to order equal pay audits: Following its consultation on compulsory equal pay audits, the Government announced in June 2012 that it would proceed with its proposal to give employment tribunals the power to order pay audits where an employer is found guilty of gender discrimination in relation to contractual or non-contractual pay matters. There is now a proposed amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to reflect this.
:: James Wilders, partner in employment at the region’s leading law firm, Dickinson Dees.