July 22, 2016

Managing hate crime in the workplace

Reported hate crime has risen 42% since our vote for BREXIT, presenting employers with perhaps their first tangible HR challenge since the historic decision to leave.

The vote split the UK’s population in half, with 52 per cent of voters backing BREXIT and 48 per cent voting to remain. And in a frightening reaction to the vote, anti-Polish cards have been handed out in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and a sharp rise in the number of people being told to ‘go back home’ – with chants such as “get out, we voted leave” – among the incidents reported.

Police say the spike in incidents is the worst on record.

With tensions so high across the country, acts such as these could find their way in to the workplace and, as an employer, you have a duty to ensure the safety and comfort of your employees.

Four steps to managing hate crime and protecting your business and employees

Firstly, it’s important to know you have an obligation to respond to all alleged threats or acts of racism, whether the act is alleged to have come from an employee or third party.

So here are our essential tips to help you deal with hate crime within the workplace:

1. Take action. Ignoring hostile behaviour could be seen as accepting or condoning it

Once an act or threat of violence or racism has been identified, ensure you investigate thoroughly and take the necessary action.

It is not just actual physical violence that should be dealt with – threats can be equally distressing and counter-productive. While some racially-focused remarks may seem flippant and unthreatening to some, it is up to the recipient to decide whether they feel threatened or consider the remarks inappropriate.

You must respect their feelings.

All claims should be investigated. This should include speaking to the claimant, witnesses and the perpetrator. Refer any matters to a disciplinary meeting where there is reasonable belief that an act of racism has occurred.

As with all disciplinary warnings and dismissals, you must follow a fair process. Acas provides an independent guide if you don’t have official internal disciplinary policies, or you can contact our experts to help you devise your own procedures.

Employers should also consider previous instances and how these were dealt with.

2. Make sure your policies are up-to-date and communicated to your employees

While you as the employer should be seen to deal with all incidents, employees should recognise their own obligation to report incidents and you should make this clear in your internal communications policies and procedures.

Your internal policies should make clear that acts of racism, bullying or harassment will be dealt with under disciplinary procedures and could lead to dismissal for gross misconduct.

Once any investigations or disciplinary proceedings have been completed you should give careful consideration to how the outcomes of your investigations will be communicated to the parties involved.

And give particular consideration to how you will convey information to the alleged recipient of the act. This is an area that should be handled sensitively and could include putting in place arrangements to support the recipient.

3. Incidents outside work: social media

It is not just workplace-based acts of racism that should be reported and investigated.
Hundreds of people have posted evidence of hatred and racism under the hashtag ‘#PostRefRacism‘ on Twitter and Facebook.

If you find an employee has posted on this hashtag (or indeed posted anything of a similar vein) – or made any racist remarks on any social media site – you need to investigate and take disciplinary action as required.

4. Acts involving third parties

It is not just acts by employees that should be investigated and dealt with fairly and consistently. It is statistically proven that many threats or acts of racism are committed by third parties, including service users or members of the public.

Where a threat or act of racism has been proven to take place, employers are obliged to take the necessary action to ensure the risk is mitigated as far as is reasonably practicable.

This might include issuing penalties, barring service users, reporting incidents to the police, or training employees on how to deal with incidents should they re-occur.

If you are concerned about acts of racism within your organisation, or you would like policy documents specific to your workplace issue, call Moorepay’s experts on 0845 184 4615 or contact the team.

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About the author

Gillian Smith

Gill has over 10 years HR generalist experience within the retail and industrial service sectors.Whilst providing HR support and services at the most senior levels Gill’s experience includes mergers and acquisitions, complex TUPE transfers, organisational development, and strategic change management. Gill has experience in the policy development process from design, consulting with directors and employee representatives through to implementation and delivering training workshops on the new polices. Gill currently is an HR policy consultant who services a variety of clients.