Political Activity in the Workplace

It feels like we’ve had a run of elections and votes to consider over the last year and with the result from this month’s snap election there is a chance that we (Theresa) may be called upon again in the not so distant future. This all raises the question of what you consider as acceptable when it comes to employees engaging in political activities in the workplace.

It’s important to realise that political opinions can be one of the most divisive topics, along with religion, and can lead to emotions and tempers running high. Younger and older generations often have differences in the way they vote which can cause conflict in the workplace. It is also likely that you may see differences, depending on how far up the ‘company ladder’ employees are, as to which party will receive their vote or what expectations they have from their government and local leaders. 

Some companies are now putting policies in place which outlines what they expect from their employees when it comes to politics. Examples include:

  • Prohibiting employees from campaigning, attempting to coerce others into holding particular political opinions and wearing political symbols.
  • Reminding employees of the company bullying and harassment policies.
  • Banning employees from putting up notices or leaving promotional political materials, such as leaflets, on company premises.
  • Using company resources (printers, photocopiers etc) to assist with political activity.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s (EAT) stance on the matter of politics within the workplace is slightly grey. Although political opinions are not a protected characteristic under the equality act, religion and beliefs, including philosophical beliefs such as humanism, pacifism and atheism are protected. Therefore in 2009 the EAT stated that ‘support of a political party will not amount to a philosophical belief, but a belief in a political philosophy or doctrine may qualify’.

Whether or not you need to have a written policy in place, to manage the levels of political activity that your employees can engage in on your premises, is up to you. It is worthwhile to note that if anything was to arise where you needed to go down the disciplinary route, it would be a lot easier for you to implement if you could refer to a specific policy in your handbook.

For more information on implementing these types of policies within your business or for more information on how ProAktive can help with any other HR issues please contact our HR Team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins Cert CII – Risk Services Adviser

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