Since the Brexit vote to leave the EU, a political divide has arisen between two very deeply held beliefs amongst the British public. Much of the divide has become extremely emotional.
Matters are likely to be compounded because on one view there will certainly be an exodus of a number of international companies from this country, who had previously used the UK as a gateway to the EU, and there will be redundancies.
It also seems likely that the UK will restrict free movement of people by introducing a points based immigration system. As things stand, if it does, it has been argued that it is highly unlikely that the UK will have unfettered access to the EU market post-Brexit, putting further pressure on the economy, with possible additional redundancies.
With deep-rooted tension in the workplace, the prospect of a points based immigration system, and large scale redundancies on the cards, businesses need to beware of Brexit-related legal issues in the workplace.
It appears from social media that a new phrase has been coined for the issue: “Brexism”.
Remember that, until we do exit the EU, the law will remain the same. This means recruitment should not be made on the basis of nationality. Even after we leave the EU, race discrimination law is likely to remain in place.
This means that, even when it becomes clearer what the points based system might look like, recruitment should not be made on the basis of national origin until new legislation is put in place.
Strongly held beliefs are protected by discrimination law. People should not be treated less favourably because they stand on one side or other of the Brexit argument.
Bear in mind that companies can be vicariously liable for the discrimination of their employees. Any Brexit related arguments and disputes in the workplace should be dealt with quickly, therefore. It is likely that in a number of cases such disputes and incidents could properly lead to terminations for gross misconduct, but a fair procedure will still need to be followed.
Much of the referendum debate has revolved around immigration issues. Race discrimination may also be a factor in disputes, and should be dealt with swiftly and resolutely by employers.
Follow a fair procedure which is clean of race and perceived immigration status. Even though we have reported on a recent case dealing with discrimination on the basis of immigration status, we would strongly advise against making any redundancy decisions on these grounds until the law is changed.