If you are an employer, do you know what you can do to restrict political campaigning from employees when they are working? Following Theresa May’s decision to call a ‘snap’ general election on the 8th of June, this could potentially be a significant issue for businesses over the next few weeks.
Interestingly, employees do not need the normal two-year service period to claim unfair dismissal where the reason for the dismissal is their political opinion or affiliation. As a result, businesses need to carefully consider what they are entitled to do if they want to restrict any displays of political allegiance.
What can Employers do?
Anyone that is familiar with the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act may think that a political opinion could fall under the ‘Region or Belief’ characteristic. However, although employees might argue that they are being discriminated against because of their “philosophical” beliefs, claims of this nature are difficult to win as a claimant would need to satisfy the five-stage test similar to the Grainger vs Nicholson case.
Generally, employers are perfectly entitled to prevent political campaigning in their workplace if they feel that it will upset their customer and supplier relationships as well as team morale or team productivity. This can include a full restriction on employees wearing political clothing, pressurising their colleagues into voting, or using company printers to print off political flyers for example.
Do these rules apply to employee actions outside of work?
Employers do not have as much restrictive control over their employees outside of working hours. Employers can only restrict employee actions outside of work if they feel that the employee’s actions are bringing the company into disrepute. An example of this could be if an employee posts on social media claiming that the company has a preference for one political party over another.
When one considers that employees do not need two years’ service to claim unfair dismissal because of their political opinion, these issues have the potential to be very contentious – particularly when political perspectives are at play. In the run-up to the 8th of June, it would be sensible for employers to either introduce or revise a policy on political activity both in and out of the workplace in order to limit the possibility of strong political opinions having a negative effect on the business.
Photo Credit: independent.co.uk