Political beliefs in a polarised workplace

Back To Latest News

The past few years in British politics have been eventful, to say the least.

Two referendums of massive constitutional importance, both offering a binary choice, namely the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 and of course the infamous 2016 EU referendum. The resulting Brexit headlines a relentless constant ever since.

Both referendums naturally polarised public opinion across the UK. Families, friends and colleagues were divided on their thoughts on both. With Brexit in particular, quite literally dividing the nation.

What does this mean in the workplace?

Employers need to be aware of the current political divide given its potential to undermine workplace harmony and morale, particularly as Brexit becomes even more contentious, and the possibilities of no Brexit, or no deal and anything in between, cause uncertainty and frustration.

Whilst traditionally most employees leave their political views at home when going to work, the passions unleashed by these divisive issues mean that this is less likely, and a breakdown in working relationships is always simmering under the surface.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers and employees cannot harass or treat their colleagues less favourably because of a person’s protected characteristics, which primarily relate to the core features of that person’s being and identity, namely age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, race, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership and pregnancy/maternity.

The 2010 Act also provides that a person’s “religion or belief” is a characteristic worthy of protection.  “Any religion” or lack of such religion are protected, and “any religious or philosophical belief” or lack of such beliefs are protected.  Unfortunately, no further definition is provided as to what amounts to a religion or a religious or philosophical belief within the 2010 Act, and a series of cases have attempted to set the parameters of what is worthy of protection under the law.