With talk in the office, on the street and at home still revolving around the EU referendum it’s important to be aware of some potential HR issues that might apply as a result. We’ve listed the top things to be aware of as an employer in relation to discussions in the office.
1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and to place their vote as they see fit so if this is against the company’s stance you must make sure that this employee is not discriminated against because of having an alternative view.
2. The Equality Act 2010 states that:
A person (A) harasses another (B) if—
(a) A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic (including beliefs), and
(b) the conduct has the purpose or effect of—
(i) violating B’s dignity, or
(ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.
Therefore, if someone is intimidated or humiliated because of their philosophical beliefs, in this case their political view, then they have the right to state that this constitutes harassment. In its strongest sense, this could include comments in relation to the immigration factor discussion on both sides.
3. Workers from outside the UK have been seen to be experiencing an increase in harassment since the referendum. It is important for the employer to be aware of this situation and protect their employees within the workplace from any forms of harassment.
4. The generation divide in voting has also led to many disputes. Comments based on age can also produce an offensive environment and constitute harassment.
5. Employers should be careful when recruiting that no discrimination is applied to EU applicants. Until there is a formal withdrawal from the EU and regulations agreed otherwise, EU workers still have the right to live and work in the UK and should be treated equally.
6. Employers should be aware of social media comments that are connected to the company. Make sure your social media policy is up-to-date and consider communications carefully before issuing.
7. If harassment occurs on-site an employer can avoid liability providing they have taken reasonable actions to prevent harassment. Issuing and updating the equality policy would be a reasonable action and reminding staff to respect different views may be important.
8. It should be clear that, in cases of discrimination and harassment, these actions will not be tolerated. Following a careful procedure of warnings, consideration and action is important to prevent future claims of constructive or unfair dismissal.
In times of change, passions are high and things are often said that are not meant. However, when considering these facts, the employer must be cautious that harmless discussions do not escalate into potential issues. If you feel you need further advice on how to handle harassment or discrimination, please speak to your HR Advisor or call 01924 827869.