When is banter a step too far?
Office banter can be the bane of HR Managers and Employers professional lives. Managing the delicate balance between allowing employees to enjoy their time at work and be themselves versus jokes and comments that could be discriminatory or offensive is a delicate balance.
Just this month DLP were surprised to learn about office banter that may affect the outcome of an Employment Tribunal. The CEO emailed the claimant a few weeks before her dismissal ‘joking’ about her receiving a P45 and her possible termination.
While this banter may have seemed innocent at the time the revelation at Tribunal has significantly changed the tone of the proceedings and their likely outcome. Particularly since the ‘joke’ came from the CEO. This should be a cautionary tale for us all.
Employers should be aware of the communication that takes place in the office – both written and verbal – and take reasonable measures to ensure that employees are behaving professionally. Those in senior positions have a duty to call out the banter and certainly not add to or create it.
If comments in the office amount to discrimination, employers should bear in mind that an offended employee could bring employment tribunal claims in either discrimination, breach or constructive dismissal.