The decision to leave the EU has sent shockwaves throughout the country, even though the UK’s complete exit will be some years away. There have been reports of increased tensions in the workplace since the results were announced, putting pressure on employers to carefully monitor and deal with any bullying or discrimination that might be taking place.
There have been a number of reports across the country of an increase in racially motivated incidents since the results of the EU vote was announced. The police have say that reports of hate crime has risen by 57 per cent since the UK voted to leave the EU, with a number of these events taking place at work.
Employers should be careful not to ignore any incidents as simply banter or just an individual’s political expression, as they could be potentially serious. As an employer, you have a duty of care to all your staff and you must make every effort to stop any conflict that arises, particularly where it concerns potential implications of a Brexit for EU nationals.
It is a good time to remind employees of the content of equal opportunities, bullying and harassment policies and to make sure all staff understand that they must respect each other’s opinions and not allow their personal and political views to affect their relationships with colleagues, or their work.
If an employee feels that they are being bullied or harassed, then they must inform their line manager as soon as possible. If comments are unwanted and create a hostile or intimidating working environment, it is not a defence to say that comments are only banter or that the remarks were not about that individual.
An employee could bring a claim against their employer for constructive dismissal, if there have been incidences of bullying, and the employers failure to stop it, has led to a breach of contract and the worker is forced to leave their job.
Employers need to be able to show that they have done all they can to avoid any discrimination happening at their workplace, and should carefully monitor employees’ behaviour towards colleagues from other EU countries.
If you become aware of any incidences of bullying or unacceptable behaviour, or receive a complaint, as an employer it is important that you act quickly, even if it means taking formal action.
It is important that both employers and employees remember, that until the UK formally withdraws from the EU, EU nationals continue to have the same rights to live and work in the UK as before.