Talking politics at work and avoiding conflict

Who are you going to vote for in the upcoming General Election?

Some of your employees may be card carrying members of a party. Others may be sick of politics or take no interest. As an employer, you may be worried about how political talk in the workplace may affect your business and your staff. In our opinion, you are right to think about how to prepare for any conflicts that may arise.

Campaigning

During the working day, you want your employees to be working. If employees are undertaking any type of political campaigning when they should be hard at work or using company systems or equipment for their personal political activities, the employer is allowed to stop them.

You should act consistently to avoid grievances and claims of discrimination. You should not just take action against one employee because they are supporting a party that you don’t agree with but turn a blind eye to one that shares your views!

Discussions

Evidently, you can’t stop employees discussing the election, but you can remind employees to be aware of the people around them and how their comments may affect their feelings. Remember that one colleague may find a joke amusing, but others may find it offensive. You should also remind employees that it is their responsibility to ensure that their behaviour does not cause offence and to stop immediately if they are told that it is unwanted or offensive.

Employers should point to their Equal Opportunities and Harassment policies and highlight that the consequences of not adhering to the rules found within these policies.

If managers do notice disagreements or inappropriate jokes, you should nip these in the bud quickly to avoid them escalating further.

Social media

Often, employees will post stuff about the elections or their political views on social media sites, such as Twitter or Facebook. This is generally not of the employer’s concern. However, if the comments, images or videos are about their colleague(s) and they are found to be offensive, discriminatory, defamatory or amounting to harassment or bullying, the employee may find themselves subject to disciplinary procedures. Likewise, they should not be posting material that brings the company into disrepute.

Display of political signs

Employers have considerable leeway when deciding their dress code. Your dress code policy may state that employees are not permitted to wear certain clothes or items which show any political logos or affiliations. This may be particularly vital if the employee is in a customer-facing role as you may not wish for the company to be associated with a specific political party. Whatever rules you impose, you will need to make sure that the rules are reasonable and non-discriminatory.

At Ellis Whittam, our Employment Law Advisers are available to answer your questions and help guide you when faced with these types of issues.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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