Tuesday, 28 November 2023 14:47

Ban the Banter?

The duty on employers to manage inappropriate behaviour in the workplace has increased following the passing of the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023. From October 2024, employers will need to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment of employees.

It has long been established that it is how comments and behaviour are received rather than how they are intended that determines whether or not they are offensive or inappropriate. Referring to an off-hand comment as being intended simply as a joke or passed off as banter probably won’t stand up in tribunal if an individual is truly offended by it.

This year, there have been several high-profile cases of harassment in the workplace. Look no further than the CBI and McDonalds. Equally, Personnel Today found that in a survey of 1700 surgeons, almost two-thirds had been sexually harassed in the NHS.

Banter is only banter if everyone is genuinely involved in it and there is no target or victim. Even then, some individuals may join in because they are afraid of becoming a target if they voice that they are uncomfortable or don’t agree with what is being said.

Individuals can also be affected indirectly by comments and incidents. A laddish comment made amongst an all-male group of similar backgrounds may appear innocent amongst those present, however we may not know what friends or relations people present have outside of that group. And this applies to any group of similar individuals, regardless of gender, race, age etc.

In its Parliament stages, the Workers Protection Act required employers to take “all reasonable steps” however this has now been changed to just “reasonable steps”. Equally, employers are not liable for harassment from third parties such as customers or suppliers. However, under the act, tribunals will have the power to increase compensation by 25% if the employer has found to have breached their duty.

So, what can employers do?

- Dignity at Work: Employers can train managers to understand their legal responsibilities when it comes to maintaining everyone’s dignity at work. It’s not about being the banter police but rather ensuring everyone feels safe and supported in the workplace.

- Preventing Bullying and Harassment: Employers can train their employees to understand what is and isn’t acceptable. Equally, they can give them to confidence to speak up should they feel uncomfortable with a situation.

- Culture Review: This act becomes law in October 2024. Changing and improving culture won’t happen overnight therefore it’s important to start now in order to embed anything valuable. Employers should conduct audits amongst their employees and act on the feedback provided.

- Policy Review: employers should review their harassment policies to ensure they are up to date. Moreover, they should communicate reporting procedures to their employees in a meaningful way so that everyone is on the same page.

Every employee has a right to feel safe and supported at work. Legally, employers have a duty of care. However, by not living and breathing this duty of care, businesses risk reputational damage, poor retention rates and financial uncertainty.

If you would like any further help with dignity at work training or policy reviews, then please get in touch by calling 01452 331331 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read 679 times Last modified on Tuesday, 28 November 2023 15:05


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