Ahead of the EU Referendum, Coodes employment lawyer Philip Sayers discusses an employee’s right to express political views at work.
“Rolls-Royce, Siemens and Airbus are all publicly supporting the Remain campaign, and have communicated their views to their staff. On the other side, Wetherspoons has printed beer mats calling for the UK to leave the EU, and South West retailer Trago Mills is, unsurprisingly, flying the flag for Brexit. While the legal consensus is that businesses can share their views on the EU referendum, where do employees stand?
“When is it acceptable for staff to air their views at work, and when is it not? Do employees have the right to express their political beliefs? The picture is complex. While religion and philosophical belief are protected characteristics under the Equality Act, political beliefs are not. This means that if your employer dismisses you for expressing your religious or philosophical beliefs at work you could have a case for discrimination. On the other hand, if you try to force your religious views on others you could be fairly dismissed or be personally named as a Respondent to a discrimination claim.
“Although political views are not covered by the Equality Act, there could potentially be cases in which they are classified as philosophical beliefs. An interesting case a few years ago saw a judge rule that an employee’s strong belief in climate change should be classified under the protected characteristic of religious and philosophical belief.