The Sunday Telegraph reports that there’s a backbench rebellion brewing over the Worker Protection Bill, a private members’ bill sponsored by a couple of Lib Dems that would massively extend the Equality Act 2010 and which is being supported by the Government. Will Hazell and Edward Malnick have more.
Rishi Sunak is facing a Tory revolt over “draconian” laws that will allow shop assistants, bar staff and doctors to sue their employers if a member of the public offends them at work.
New harassment rules on the brink of becoming law will enable medics to sue the NHS if a patient insults them, allow bar staff to take legal action against landlords if they are offended by drunk punters, and let baristas take coffee shop owners to a tribunal if they overhear offensive remarks made by customers.
Senior Tories warn the proposed law will lead to an explosion of litigation and force business owners to run their establishments like a “police state”.
A Whitehall source said ministers were “sleep walking” into a “big expansion” of the Labour-era Equality Act, which Mr Sunak had previously blamed for enabling “woke nonsense to permeate public life”.
The row will come as a major embarrassment to the Prime Minister, who has been seeking to position the Conservatives against “woke” policies that are unpopular with many business owners and working-class voters.
Tory backbenchers accused the Government of “taking their eye off the ball” by supporting a “mad” Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by two Liberal Democrat parliamentarians, on course to become law within weeks.
The Bill was waved through the Commons without a vote during a Friday sitting when most MPs were back in their constituencies.
Ministers are under pressure to ditch or gut the legislation, with backbenchers warning that purported “freedom of speech” protections added into the Bill will do little to save employers from crippling litigation.
The Worker Protection Bill will make employers liable for staff being harassed by “third parties” such as customers or members of the public. It introduces a legal requirement for companies and public bodies to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent this.