Downing Street drops support for ‘draconian’ bill that would let staff sue employers if they were offended by rude customers
- MPs have said bill could be abused by business owners seeking to damage rivals
- But government sources confirmed that the legislation is likely to be shelved
Controversial legislation that would allow staff to sue their employers if they were offended by a rude customer will no longer be backed by Downing Street.
Senior MPs raised concerns over the Liberal Democrat-sponsored Bill which has already sailed through the House of Commons.
MPs have previously said that the ‘draconian’ Worker Protection Bill could be abused by business owners seeking to damage rivals.
But government sources confirmed last night that the legislation, which started life as a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Liberal Democrat frontbencher Wera Hobhouse, is likely to be shelved.
Employers are not liable for ‘third-party’ incidents on their watch, but the Bill would make them responsible for staff being harassed by customers or the public.
Controversial legislation that would allow staff to sue their employers if they were offended by a rude customer will no longer be backed by Downing Street. File image
MPs including Sir Christopher Chope (pictured) have said that the ‘draconian’ Worker Protection Bill could be abused by business owners seeking to damage rivals
Tory MPs have opposed the move, suggesting it restricts free speech and could enable unsavoury business practices.
Former minister Sir Christopher Chope said: ‘It’s an opportunity for people to take down their rivals.
‘Why not send somebody around to close one of your competitors by contriving a situation which this legislation, as it’s currently drafted, could facilitate?’
Sir John Hayes, of the Common Sense Group, added: ‘You can’t have a situation where the commentary that takes place in pubs and workplaces – that is harmless – is now seen as dangerous.’
Ministers and MPs are supportive of future legislation which protects workers against sexual harassment but may allow the Worker Protection Bill to fall through lack of parliamentary time.
A government spokesman said: ‘We are aware of concerns raised by some parliamentarians about the balance the Bill strikes between protecting free speech and tackling harassment.’
Mrs Hobhouse said: ‘If the Government allows this bill to be “timed out” it would be a betrayal to those who face sexual harassment in the workplace.’
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