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By LegalEdge News

Politics in the workplace: keeping the peace as the General Election looms

The UK will soon go to the polls to elect a new government in Westminster. 

The televised debates between the numerous party leaders remind us that there are a wide range of political opinions out there. And your staff may air their political thoughts in the workplace which could lead to conflict with colleagues.

Cases relating to unfair treatment of staff are emerging and some employers take sides without considering the risks involved.    

So how should you react? 

Our previous blog: How to manage opposing views in the workplace considered how to deal with staff when their passionately held beliefs clashed with others at work. And the key messages we highlighted were:

  • Competing views and rights need to be accommodated. One opinion is not “right” or “wrong”, one does not trump the another.
  • Try to build a workplace culture that values respect and tolerance; make it clear that demonising those who hold different views or beliefs is never acceptable.
  • Employers must avoid responding to someone’s opinion in a way that could be interpreted as victimisation for those views. 
  • Aim for an inclusive workplace where there is space for everyone to be themselves.

Rustam Roy, Consultant Legal Counsel at LegalEdge says:

Employers need to be scrupulous in remaining neutral in any altercation involving opposing views in the workplace.

As we have seen with the increasingly fierce debate around gender-critical beliefs and the cases which have already gone through the courts, some employers have found themselves on the wrong side of the law by appearing to “take sides”.

Political opinions per se are not protected by discrimination legislation (other than in Northern Ireland) but the beliefs underpinning them may be, so it is safest to proceed with caution and take advice before taking action to avoid incurring legal liability. 

It may be necessary to manage employee behaviour due to the way in which views are expressed (which may itself amount to misconduct or otherwise disrupt business) but an employer should make it very clear the employee is not being disciplined because of their view.

How can we help?

We can advise on your legal obligations in the event of staff disputes around views and beliefs in the workplace. 

We can also provide training to help businesses promote inclusive and tolerant workplaces and review and draft policies to help manage disputes, deal with harassment complaints and set out acceptable use of social media. Get in touch on if you want to chat.

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