This month’s general election stirred up feeling across the political spectrum and no doubt lively conversations were going on in workplaces throughout the country.
We often hear about workplace disagreements between members of staff who hold opposing political views but it’s far less common to come across employers telling staff to vote one way or another. According to press reports however, employees at two successful companies found themselves on the receiving end of election ‘advice’ from senior managers in the week of the vote.
Two employers are caught out
Greg Knight, managing director of Jennings Racing, sent an email to all staff on the day of the election. Although he acknowledged that it was not the company’s place to meddle in anyone’s private political views, Mr Knight went on to say that if Labour and Liberal Democrat plans to reduce maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals were implemented “it is no exaggeration to say that the business will be unable to continue and all jobs would be lost. It really is that stark.” A spokesperson for the company defended Mr Knight, saying the email “provided an accurate assessment of political manifesto commitments in relation to bookmaking”. But when it was leaked on Twitter, it was branded “absolutely disgusting”.
The second email was sent by John Brooker, boss of IT firm Storm Technologies, telling staff to vote Conservative “if you value your job”. Mr Brooker made reference to taxation and spending plans in the Labour Party manifesto and warned “Labour voters will be made redundant first if Labour do win and things slow down”. The GMB union described the email as “Dickensian, workhouse nonsense” but Mr Brooker said it had been tongue-in-cheek and that no offence was intended.
Serious risks for employers
The strength of feeling and criticism that both of these emails have generated, not to mention the unwelcome media attention for the companies involved, illustrates the serious risks that employers take if they try to influence the political views of their staff. Regardless of whether it is intended as a joke, threatening staff with cuts and redundancies if they vote in a particular way is always bound to damage employee relations and risk claims of discrimination, constructive dismissal or unfair dismissal.
Employers, take heed
With talks still going on between the parties at Westminster and Brexit negotiations about to begin, employers of every persuasion in every sector should take heed and pause before sharing political views with staff.