Extremism Bill - What it means for Employers

The Government is set to press on with its anti-extremism policy – one of the many proposals previously vetoed by the Liberal Democrats – by implementing the Extremism Bill as included in the Queen’s Speech. Although not a purely employment related measure, the Bill will contain some employment related aspects. In brief, the Government is taking this step in order to make it much harder for people to promote ‘dangerous extremist’ views in communities. Universities are given particular focus within the Bill, with the inclusion of an order to ban extremist speakers on university campuses. Another commitment made by the Government is the introduction of pre-employment checks, enabling employers to check whether an individual is an extremist and bar them from working with children. Details on the actual procedure to be adopted are scant at the moment but the intention seems clear: employers will be entitled to refuse to employ someone to work with children if the checks show that the person is an extremist. The next step, then, is to define what ‘extremism’ is. Theresa May, Home Secretary, was unable to give a practical working definition in a recent radio interview, however, referred to the definition given in the Government’s ‘Extremism Strategy. That definition is as follows: “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas”. It is likely to include instances of preaching; hatred; intolerance; those who operate and promote extremism – all words used by May in the interview. May followed by saying that the legislation would further define the application of the ban. We would also expect official guidance to accompany the legislation to help employers understand the exact boundaries. At the time of writing, there was no indication as to the expected implementation date of anti-extremism legislation. However, new Government guidance was issued recently on how to keep children safe from the risk of radicalisation and extremism, and Department of Education helpline is available to enable people to raise concerns directly with the department (0207 3407264).

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