There have been reports in the press of alleged racially motivated incidents since the UK voting population decided in the majority that it wants to leave the EU.
Employers should be on extra alert for any bullying or harassment related to the Leave vote that may occur in their workplace. The Brexit continues to be a sensitive subject and feelings will run high for some time.
Unfortunately, there is some potential scope for disquiet arising from conversations between those in the workforce who voted for opposing campaigns. Alternatively, trouble may arise between EU workers and non-EU workers.
Instances of this nature can easily be interpreted as bullying in the workplace – remember that everyone’s tolerance level for what some people see as ‘banter’ is unique. One person’s banter is another person’s bullying and in order to ensure that no-one experiences an environment that is uncomfortable or intimidating, all employees should be aware that any conversation which uses someone’s race/nationality as the butt of a joke is not acceptable.
Where the grounds of the bullying behaviour is about someone’s race, or indeed any of the other protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010, then it may well be viewed as harassment which is a form of discrimination.
Employers can be found liable for acts of discrimination, including harassment, carried out by its employees even though the employer has no knowledge of the behaviour. One way that an employer can avoid this liability is by being able to evidence that it made its employees well aware of its zero tolerance stance towards all forms of discrimination. An equal opportunities policy is one way of doing this; following up the implementation of this policy with training on what is unacceptable treatment is another.