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Appropriate Behaviour in the Workplace?

The recent dismissal of Andy Gray and resignation of Richard Keys from Sky has ignited the debate of what behaviour is acceptable in the workplace, and what happens when “banter” crosses into the territory of discrimination and behaviour warranting disciplinary action.

An employer can be liable for a discrimination claim even if it did not know the offending behaviour was going on. Further, under the Equality Act 2010, claims can be brought not only by those the behaviour is directed at, but also by others who are offended by it.

Accordingly, Gray and Keys’ well publicised remarks about the female assistant referee and/or Keys’ off-air remarks of a sexual nature to Jamie Redknapp regarding a female friend of Redknapp’s, which reportedly contributed to his resignation, could have prompted (and could yet prompt) claims for harassment by any colleagues, of either sex, who overheard them and considered that they created, say, a degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.  Similarly, Andy Gray’s invitation to colleague Charlotte Jackson to tuck his shirt in, which also reportedly contributed to his dismissal, could have resulted in claims not only by Ms Jackson but also any colleagues who witnessed the incident.

So, what steps should you take?

  • Have clear policies on harassment and equal opportunities.
  • Implement the above policies through training, so that employees  are fully aware of the policies and their requirements. This training should be provided to staff of all levels.

This should make incidences of harassment less likely to occur.  Where harassment does nevertheless occur, employers can escape liability under the Equality Act if they can demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the treatment – and implementing an appropriate policy and training will be a requirement of that.  Even if liability is not avoided altogether, dealing with a complaint promptly and appropriately should minimise the extent of any award of compensation – and taking the above steps will help make sure that this happens.

Lanyon Bowdler can assist by providing harassment and equal opportunities policies for your business for only £100 + VAT, or a 2 hour training course for staff for a fixed fee of £500.00 + VAT.

For further information contact Malkit Uppal on 01743 280 287 or at malkit.uppal@lblaw.co.uk or Jennifer Gibson on 01952 211 025 or at jennifer.gibson@lblaw.co.uk