Kate Brooks

Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services

DATE PUBLISHED: 25 Jun 2016 LAST UPDATED: 19 May 2021

Beware Brexit banter at work

The vote to leave Europe continues to be a hot topic of conversation both in and out of the workplace.

All employers, especially those with a diverse workforce which includes European nationals, should be aware of the risks associated with lively discussions over Brexit at work. Despite the vote to leave being confirmed, legislation has not changed and all workers are protected by employment laws.

Discrimination law includes protection against being discriminated at work based on your nationality. Under the discrimination law (Equality Act) harassment occurs when one employee (harasser) engages in unwanted conduct relating to a protected characteristic (i.e. nationality) that has the purpose or effect of violating another employee’s (harrassee’s) dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the harassee. Whether the conduct has that effect is judged subjectively from harrasee’s viewpoint and, do not forget that employers will be liable for individual employee’s actions. Immigration has been at the centre of the Brexit campaign and the press associated with it and, no doubt part of Brexit banter. It is therefore very possible that harassment may arise out of Brexit banter.

All employers at the least should remind managers of equality and diversity policy and be aware of the amount and content of Brexit banter at work. For added protection employers should send out a message to all staff reminding them of Equality and Diversity policy and, asking them to avoid offensive or triumphant Brexit banter.

For any employment related questions or, if you require an Equality or Diversity policy, please contact me on 01202 057754 or kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk.

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