We are sure that you have been following the recent revelations in the cricket community regarding comments that hid under the cloak of so called humour. This has led to many people in different sectors recounting similar experiences. For too long this has been explained away within organisations and work-places as banter, a bit of fun, team-bonding or harmless. Spurious examples are given of alleged funny jokes that surely cannot cause offence or involved the complainant partaking in the process. Enough. Comments that many individuals have suffered are clear examples of racism and broader systemic discrimination. It is harassment. It causes injury to feelings and can lead to the victim suffering long term mental health issues. It is morally wrong and is in clear breach of the Equality Act 2010. The response of some established organisations has shown a lack of sensitivity, urgency and failure to take appropriate action.
What proactive steps should employers take and how should they deal with such issues should they arise in the workplace?
Make sure you have a clear equal opportunities policy in place which states that banter (and other forms of discrimination) are not acceptable and perpetrators will be subject to disciplinary action. Also, outline in your social media policy that comments on social media platforms could also amount to harassment and potential disciplinary action.
Roll-out training on the importance of equal opportunities and outline the unacceptable nature of banter
Reinforce that message at regular stages
Encourage a culture of transparency, accountability and respect
Listen and take advice from interest groups that represent those who may be subject to such inappropriate comments. There is plenty of assistance available.
In the event that an allegation is made-investigate it. Not six months down the line : act straight away. Ensure that the matter is kept confidential and that the person making the allegation is assured it will be dealt with promptly. If action is required, make sure steps are taken and implemented.
At all stages the complainant must be assured that if there is a repeat of such behaviour then they have a direct route to a person of seniority who will be available to assist.
If you would like to speak to a member of the Burnetts Employment and HR team you can contact them on 01228 552222 and email@example.com