U.K. law holds employers liable for harassment from customers

Advocacy group warns law could cost businesses $20.2 million

A new law that holds British employers liable if they fail to protect employees from sexual harassment, even from customers, came into force on April 6.

The law extends the scope of sexual harassment legislation to protect employees from ill-treatment by customers and holds employers responsible if they fail to take "all reasonable steps" to protect workers from all forms of abuse including lewd remarks and sexist jokes.

The amendments require employers to act if they are informed of such discrimination on three occasions or more.

However, business groups are worried the amendments were rushed through Parliament.

The measures should have been delayed in order to give businesses more time to comply, according to the Forum for Private Business (FPB), a British business advocacy group.

"These regulatory changes have not been given adequate publicity and will take may business-owners by surprise," said forum spokesman Phil McCabe in a release.

"Given the additional administration and direct costs involved, the government needs to give smaller firms the support they need, which means more time to reassess their employment policies and procedures to make sure they comply with the changes to the law."

The forum estimates that compliance with the new laws could cost the British small-business sector more than $20.2 million Cdn.

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