Has BREXIT opened up a Pandora’s box on racism?

  • Posted

Posted 20/07/2016

All business owners and HR Managers are likely to have seen the news reports outlining racist attacks that have been made against immigrants to the UK. Some of these attacks have occurred against Polish nationals in Cambridgeshire.As this is an issue prevalent to Cambridgeshire and East Anglia, HR Managers and business owners should be aware of division amongst their own workforce based on the EU referendum.

What must you be alert to? Businesses should be particularly alert to harassment or discrimination of employees within the workplace based on the way they voted in the referendum.

There is more than one type of discrimination which could arise, the most obvious being unwanted behaviour against an employee of another nationality; constituting race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

In addition there is also the possibility of discrimination against another based on their philosophical beliefs. Voting a certain way could be a manifestation of a political philosophy held by an employee, this is due to the case of GMB v. Henderson [2015] in which the EAT found that ‘left-wing democratic socialism’ could constitute a protected philosophical belief. Therefore, employers and managers will need to ensure they do not treat employees differently based on the way they have voted during the referendum, as if they do this may amount to discrimination on the basis of a philosophical belief.

However, there are limitations on what can constitute a philosophical belief; for example someone espousing racist or xenophobic views in reference to the referendum could not say this was due to their political philosophy as it is not view worthy of respect in a democratic society, thus such views would not be protected.

Indeed with the current political climate and full impact of the referendum yet to be felt issues such as these may be likely to rear their head for the foreseeable future.

Should this be an issue that is affecting your business, please do get in touch with us in relation to advice for issues at work and/or training that can be given to employees to deal with any division issues within an employer.


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