Because workplace lawsuits are on the rise and so often involve banter based upon protected characteristics such as race, nationality, age, or sex, the question of what constitutes friendly teasing versus harmful bullying is increasingly becoming an issue. This is because workplace lawsuits often involve banter based upon protected characteristics such as race, nationality, age, or sex.
What is the difference between banter in the office and discrimination in the workplace? How can you, as the owner and manager of a small business, teach your staff on where the line should be drawn? How can you safeguard personnel from cruel statements that are made in the name of workplace banter, and how should you effectively deal with the matter if it does occur so that it does not have to be taken to court?
What distinguishes workplace joking from discrimination?
It’s likely that some workplaces are more conducive to joking about and bantering than others, but this isn’t always the case. The usage of jokes and teasing each other in a lighthearted manner are both instances of banter, which is a word that is spoken in an informal setting. Even if it is possible that this is an indicator of a happy and easygoing workforce, such behaviour may be deemed harassment or discrimination, particularly if it comes at the expense of another worker.
Individuals are sheltered from being subjected to discrimination on the basis of a “protected feature” as a result of the provisions that were included in the Equality Act of 2010, which mandated such provisions. Age, physical handicap, gender reassignment, marriage or civil union, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, and sex are some of the characteristics that fall under this category. Marriage and civil unions are two examples of others.
The Act protects individuals from being subjected to discrimination, which means that they cannot be dealt with in a manner that is less favourable due to the presence of a protected feature. In addition, violating someone’s right not to be harassed is illegal. The use of a protected characteristic in a manner that demeans another individual or that creates an environment that is threatening, degrading, hostile, insulting, or humiliating is what is referred to as this. It is illegal to use a protected characteristic in such a way that does either of these things.
Because it is customary practise to decide each scenario on its own, it could be difficult to draw the boundary between lighthearted humour and prejudice. It’s conceivable that what was said was just banter, but depending on who said it, to whom, what it was about, and how it affected the individual, it might also be considered biassed. Banter is a form of lighthearted banter. The impact that the banter had on the person who was forced to endure it is far more significant than the question of whether or not it was intended to be insulting in the first place.
How should employers teach their employees where the line is to be drawn?
It is the responsibility of employers to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace.
Training on respect in the workplace should be mandatory for every employee, regardless of their job or degree of seniority, and everyone should be compelled to participate. In addition, regular training updates—at least once every two years—should be offered; relying only on out-of-date education is inadequate.
In order for managers to be able to identify inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and ensure that it is corrected as soon as possible, more assistance and training should be made available to them. Poor conduct may frequently be avoided if it is quickly identified and dealt with, especially in the setting of a team, where it may be very destructive to workplace morale if it is allowed to continue.
Respectful workplace culture development is vital. Honor and celebrate diversity; in most cases, the most prosperous and fruitful businesses are the ones that employ the most people from a variety of backgrounds. Therefore, rather than having employees be too timid to speak out (perhaps out of fear of being punished by other team members), which may unintentionally complicate things, it is best to provide them with the skills and confidence necessary to be able to do so.
To ensure that everyone is on the same page about appropriate conduct while at work, each employee ought to be familiar with a comprehensive list of rules and/or a staff manual.
How can businesses safeguard employees against cruel remarks made in the guise of office chitchat?
Employers have already put employee protection measures into place, which include providing training and having explicit rules on how to maintain a respectful workplace. They need to be informed of the standards of conduct that are expected of staff members.
It is anticipated that a sticky situation that arises when someone’s jokes are taken too far and they insult another person may be resolved amicably. Training for management is absolutely necessary in these kinds of scenarios so that an arbitrator can guarantee that all parties understand why the behaviour in question was detrimental or inappropriate and why it should not happen again in the future. It is possible that it will be essential to provide an apology to the employee who was negatively impacted and to remind the offender of their training as well as the applicable company rules.
In more serious situations, such as when the banter is discriminatory or potentially discriminatory or when it has caused considerable distress, it will be acceptable to handle the problem officially in accordance with the applicable corporate processes, such as the disciplinary policy. This will be the case when it is acceptable to handle the problem officially in accordance with the applicable corporate processes.
What should be done if workplace banter exceeds the line so it doesn’t end up in court?
In the event that the conflict cannot be settled peacefully or is sufficiently significant to call for a response in accordance with business policy, it will be necessary to comply with the disciplinary policy of the company.
It is wrong for an employer to try to prevent an employee from submitting claims with an employment tribunal since employees have the right to do so if they choose to exercise it.
An employee who feels wronged by their employer may submit a grievance if the method for doing so is provided by the employer. The employee’s employer is obligated to investigate the complaint in a timely manner utilising the appropriate protocols, and they must do it without undue delay. It is of the utmost importance to make certain that the employee is kept abreast of the progression of the inquiry as well as the estimated completion date.
The findings of the investigation will provide the employer with the information necessary to choose the appropriate next step to take. The employer is required to take the proper action, but they are expected to pay attention to detail and communicate their decision to the employee in a caring manner. The recommendations that come out of an investigation into a grievance will play a significant role in determining whether or not it will be possible to mend a damaged working relationship between the parties involved.
In the event that it is discovered that the banter was participated in and constituted misbehaviour or gross misconduct, the employer ought to initiate disciplinary action against the perpetrator.