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Well, it’s a very Monday-y Tuesday isn’t it, but I hope your bank holiday weekend was great, and to all the parents I hope you’re doing ok surviving half term so far! We took the kids to Uttoxeter races on Sunday, not many winners but the thunderstorms and showers managed to avoid us so not all bad and the kids were happy with their prizes from hook-a-duck, and then yesterday we went to Cheshire Oaks which was a bit too busy for my liking, we only lasted an hour or two before coming back home.

Then today is my eldest stepson’s 18th birthday, so we’re out for a family tea tonight and his first (legal!) pint, which will be nice!

Anyway, enough of my life updates and onto the employment law update…

There’s been a lot of talk about the general election which has been called (or the Genny Lecs as it’s been coined, who comes up with these?!), I talk about the potential changes a Labour government could bring here, https://precepthr.com/blog-should-businesses-be-worried-about-a-labour-government/.

And whilst a lot of people will relish the chance to talk about their political views, a study has found that 1 in 5 workers are said to want the political chat banned from the office. This election comes at a time when differences in political opinions are causing more divisions than ever before, and it’s always been a divisive subject.

Your employees will have a range of opposing views, political and otherwise, and so you will need to be prepared to handle these conversations, so how do you do this?

What we would recommend is having a clear policy on what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace, and making sure that line managers are aware of this policy and what is expected of them and the people that they line manage. Whilst it will be nearly impossible to get rid of all political chat, you can ensure that your employees enter into these discussions understanding that everybody has a different point of view.

HR will need to ensure that workplaces create clear boundaries, whilst also ensuring that employees can show up as their true authentic self.

From an employment law perspective heated discussions in the workplace could lead to issues with morale and if serious enough, constructive unfair dismissal if an employee feels as though they have no choice but to resign because of how they’re being treated. This could be where other employees try to force their views and opinions on others.

But are those employees who express their political opinions protected in the workplace?

Generally speaking, a dismissal due to an employee expressing a political opinion or affiliation without any other findings of misconduct is likely to be found to be unfair – which can cause you problems if the employee has more than 2 years’ service. Remember they have the right to bring claims for unfair dismissal. This means that you will need to make sure that:

  • You have a fair reason for dismissing the employee other than the fact they support a particular political party: it might be that they have expressed views in an inappropriate way bordering on harassment or they’ve been campaigning for their chosen party during work hours (both of which could potentially result in a dismissal for misconduct).
  • You have followed a fair process prior to dismissal.
  • The decision to dismiss falls within the range of reasonable responses open to you as an employer. Effectively, what I mean is, you need to have taken into account any mitigating circumstances. For example, the context in which comments were made, length of service and previous disciplinary record.

We also need to be mindful of whether political views fall within the protection of the Equality Act 2010. It’s a bit of grey area, so let me try and shed some light on it.

Generally, the case law is pretty clear:  supporting a political party or expressing a political opinion will not amount to protected philosophical beliefs. However, a belief in a particular political philosophy or doctrine, such as Socialism, Marxism or free-market Capitalism, may well qualify, subject to the belief passing the legal test for such a belief to be protected.

Just as a reminder, that test for a belief to be protected under the Equality Act 2010 is:

  1. The belief must be genuinely held.
  2. It must be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
  3. It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  4. It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

So it’s important to assess on a case by case basis, the underlying reason for somebody’s support of a political party and/or their expression of political views before taking any formal action against them.

It’s also important to consider very carefully, the way in which their political views have been expressed. If views are expressed in an appropriate and reasonable manger, then taking formal action is likely to go too far and could land you as an employer in hot water.

So, as you can probably tell from this week’s blog, careful assessment on an individual basis is key to dealing with political views in the workplace. It’s a sensitive area and one that we at Precept are very much attuned to. As always get in touch with us, so we can help you if you have these issues arising in the workplace. There’s a long few weeks to go before the election and we’re always here!