PM Theresa May took the country by surprise by announcing a snap general election for 8 June. We look at how employers should tackle the talk of politics in the workplace.
With the general election just over a month away, it is somewhat inevitable that employees will chat about politics. Politics can be a highly emotive subject which leads to disagreement, arguments and loss of productivity. Employers should be aware that:
Most employers expect an employee to demonstrate responsible behaviour at work, work-related functions and social events, and to act in a way that will not have a detrimental effect on the business’ reputation.
However, when an employee is outside of work or work-related events, they are free generally to express their own political views or beliefs.
However, beware of discrimination/harassment as political opinion could be classed as a ‘philosophical belief’ under the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination can be direct or indirect. Other than age discrimination, direct discrimination cannot be objectively justified.
Employers should be aware that there is no qualifying period of employment required for an employee to pursue a discrimination claim. An employer’s grievance or disciplinary procedure can be used where required in order to deal with any complaint. Employers should be aware that disciplinary action is anything up to and including dismissal. The ACAS Code of Practice sets out the steps that an employer should take in the lead up to dismissal.
Employers should note that verbal warnings do not need to form part of a formal process but if they are included in your disciplinary procedure, then the procedure leading up to giving a verbal warning would need to comply with the ACAS Code of Practice.
An employee has the right to raise a grievance in respect of any concerns, problems or complaints that they may have with their employer. If you as an employer receive a grievance from an employee, the ACAS Code of Practice again provides guidance as to how a grievance procedure should be managed. Any grievance policy should comply with the ACAS Code of Practice.
Employers should be alive to the fact that a failure to adhere to the ACAS Code of Practice could uplift compensation if an employee is subsequently successful in an Employment Tribunal claim.
If an employee does raise a grievance, they should be invited to a hearing (which may be in addition to an investigatory hearing) and they should be offered the right of accompaniment (by a trade union representative or colleague) and the right to appeal the decision made.
If as a company you are considering making a political donation then you will need to be aware of Part 14 of the Companies Act 2006. Prior shareholder approval is required before making a political donation.
For all enquiries relating to politics in the workplace, please contact our Employment Department – our team of expert solicitors will be able to assist. Call on 01708 229444 or email us using our contact form.
This article was written by Alexander Pearce, Employment Law Associate at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of April 2017.