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Peter Etherington
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Employment Update for Small Businesses
June 2022

Dear Subscriber

Is it just me or are people much quicker to take offence than they used to be?  If so, is it the fault of social media or reality TV, or maybe people feel more confident to speak out than before? I really don’t know, but one thing I do know is that there can be a fine line between acceptable banter in the workplace, and behaviour that can be considered to be unlawful discrimination. That is the subject of this month’s update!
Please contact me if you would like to find out a bit more about any of the subjects raised in this update or if you need any help or advice.

Please forward this email to any of your contacts who might find it of benefit.

Peter Etherington
Tel: 01664 668164


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Peter Etherington
Banter v Discrimination
Striking the right balance
As an employer, you can be held liable (and, therefore, sued) for the discriminatory behaviour of your staff. So it is important that you take appropriate steps to ensure a harmonious workplace and that any banter is kept within the bounds of acceptability. That is not always easy!

As mentioned in our April update, harassment is a form of discrimination whereby the behaviour of an individual has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, or violating their dignity, in connection with a protected characteristic (e.g. race, sex, age, sexual orientation, etc.) So we need to be mindful of when banter oversteps the mark and becomes harassment.

If we take age as an example – it is not uncommon for people to joke about older people’s age. In fact the greetings card industry seems to do its best to promote such banter! Many people don’t mind a bit of teasing about their age, particularly if it is clearly said in jest. But some people may be much more sensitive to such comments. So how does one judge?

It may be too heavy-handed to ban all banter in the workplace, but that would clearly be the safest approach. However, employers can strike a balance here by ensuring staff know to stop the banter if and when they become aware that someone is not happy with it, and by stepping in when they become aware of any banter that becomes inappropriate or is clearly not welcome.

Obviously, there are some types of “banter” that should not be allowed – e.g. anything that is clearly racist or sexist. It is up to the employer to ensure that is well understood in the workplace by having, at the very least, a clear policy on harassment that sets this out. You may also wish to consider covering this in more detail as part of the induction process and perhaps running occasional sessions in team meetings or training programmes.

If you need any support with this matter, please contact us.

National Minimum and Living Wage
The current National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates are:

  • £9.50 per hour for workers aged 23 and over
  • £9.18 per hour for workers aged 21 to 22
  • £6.83 per hour for workers aged 18 to 20
  • £4.81 per hour for workers aged 16 and 17
  • £4.81 per hour for apprentices under 19 and those over 19 in their first year*

*N.B. Apprentices over 19 and who have completed at least one year are entitled to the appropriate rate for their age.