I wrote to Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, on Friday to alert her to the dangers of the Worker Protection Bill and ask her to press the pause button on this momentous piece of legislation that has received very little scrutiny. The Telegraph has the story.
New laws will turn restaurant owners, hoteliers and pub landlords into “banter police”, ministers have been warned.
The Government is introducing new legislation aimed at protecting employees from harassment in the workplace.
But critics fear the change will have far-reaching consequences for free speech and will lead to employers having a “legitimate legal interest in policing what members of the public say”.
An amendment to the Equality Act, backed by ministers, will make employers liable for third-party harassment – meaning from members of the public, as well as from their fellow staff members.
Under clause one of the Bill, employers will be required to take “all reasonable steps” to protect their employees from harassment of any kind, and failure to do so will leave them vulnerable to being sued by their employees in the Employment Tribunal.
Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, has written to Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, to urge her to change course.
He said: “The Equality Act has poisoned the atmosphere in workplaces up and down the country.
“Why on earth is a Conservative Government extending the scope of the Equality Act, so when we’re in pubs, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and sports grounds we’ll have to constantly be looking over our shoulders to make sure we’re not being overheard by the banter police? This is the opposite of the ‘war on woke’.
“It’s extending the writ of the woke thought police to every nook and cranny of British society.”
He explained that under the new laws, a member of staff in a pub who is offended by “overhearing some banter between customers” could bring a case for “unwanted conduct” under the Equality Act.
In a letter to Ms Badenoch, he said that “consequently, publicans will have to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to protect their employees from ‘harassment’ of this type, from sticking up notices saying ‘No Banter’, to employing bouncers to police customers’ conversations. These are additional costs that will push many pubs into liquidation”.