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Politics is off the menu for office chat

As more organisations recognise the economic and social value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, trust and mutual respect between colleagues continues to grow. But taboos still remain when it comes to what workers feel are safe topics for discussion with colleagues, a recent survey suggests.

Almost six out of ten UK office workers are more comfortable keeping quiet about their political opinions in front of their colleagues, according to a survey from SaleLand. Of that group, almost nine out of ten were afraid their colleagues would think less of them if they shared their political affiliations. Only one in ten said that they would openly talk about how they planned to vote.

Despite this cautious attitude, the research found that only 9 per cent of respondents blamed political differences for any serious animosity in the workplace.

Workers are protected from discrimination on the basis of their religion or beliefs, including philosophical beliefs, such as humanism, pacifism and atheism. But this protection does not necessarily extend to political affiliation and opinion. Guidance issued by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2009 stated that 'support of a political party will not amount to a philosophical belief, but a belief in a political philosophy or doctrine may qualify'.

Acas has published pdf  Religion or belief and the workplace - a guide for employers and employees [347kb] which gives detailed advice on what may constitute a philosophical belief and related areas. Acas also offers training to help your organisation improve its employment relations and employee engagement, with courses listed under Staff retention and Skills for supervisors. Help is also available on matters related to Discrimination.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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