'Blowing the Whistle' on Workplace Discrimination

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07 Jun 2010

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Employers at risk of bullying or harassment claims as World Cup fever hits – Croner survey. London, 7 June 2010 – With the World Cup just over a week away many employees in the UK will be looking forward to watching their team in action. However with an extremely diverse population British bosses are being warned that they could face discrimination, harassment and bullying claims if they allow footie banter to take a more nationalistic turn. New research conducted online by YouGov for Croner reveals that more than one in 10 working adults (13%) say that workplace banter around the World Cup and sporting teams can often lead to tension. "Employers may be thinking this year's World Cup will be less of an issue than in 2006 as many England games will be shown in the evening. However, the UK's population is incredibly diverse and they need to consider a number of workers who will be supporting other countries," says Liz Iles, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner. "Employers could be at risk of bullying or harassment claims if someone's idea of a light-hearted discussion is interpreted quite differently by another member of staff. "Of course employees will be discussing the tournament, and this will naturally involve conversations about nationalities and possibly race. Employers cannot control such discussions however they should be on the alert for any possible issues." Further tensions could arise from disagreements between sport fans and non-sport fans. Almost a quarter (23%) of working adults questioned admit that despite not being particularly interested in sports they still want to be given the same benefits as their colleagues who are sporting fans, such as flexible working arrangements, watching the TV in work hours and time off to go down the pub. Liz Iles says: "Any potential unfair treatment can put an employer at risk of discrimination allegations. It is also important to note that, if an employer is considering putting special World Cup flexible working practices in place, this will need to be communicated to all staff in advance and they should consider having a formal policy in place to deal with this issue, thereby avoiding possible complaints of unfair treatment." The research also highlights stark differences between age and gender groups. Unsurprisingly over a third of men (35%) think their employers should allow them to watch the games during working hours, compared to only 17% of women. The younger generation are also more interested in watching the World Cup at work, with 38% of under 35s wanting their employers to allow them to watch the matches during working hours, compared to only 12% of working over 55s and almost one in five 45-54 year olds (19%). Liz Iles added: "While it is no surprise that not everyone is a football fan, it is interesting that these non-footie fans make up the majority of workers. "Employers need to be careful not only to think about employees that have expressed an interest in watching the World Cup during working hours or receiving flexible working arrangements to catch the games. They need to make sure they open up these benefits to everyone, making sure to treat all employees fairly and consistently - otherwise they could be in danger of upsetting certain employees, which could lead to increased tension at work." Note on the research All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov plc. Total sample size was 2085 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14 and 17 May 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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