By Paul Holcroft, associate director at Croner
With Boris and Brexit constantly in the news, it’s not surprising to learn that a study by Jobsite found that 46% of UK employees have noticed a large increase in the number of political discussions in the workplace since the EU referendum. Employees have a right to have their own opinions about political and social events but what happens if they alienate and upset other workers? Should employers ban employees from discussing politics in the workplace completely?
An extreme option would be to ban employees from discussing politics during working hours. In reality, an outright workplace ban will be difficult to enforce. Therefore, it is recommended that employers train employees about what political chatter is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. This should include a reminder of being considerate of other people’s opinion and that any threatening or aggressive behaviour or language will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.
Although employers should actively manage political talk in the workplace, they should recognise that employees may be protected against being unfairly treated because of their political beliefs. Although difficult, employees may be able to prove that their political beliefs fall under the protected characteristic of ‘philosophical belief’ under the Equality Act 2010 so will be protected against discrimination.
Political policies such as immigration targets can divide opinion and can lead to conversations which include discussing other protected characteristics such as race or ethnic origins. Employees will be protected against harassment on these grounds where these conversations violate their dignity or create a humiliating or offensive environment.
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