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Clarkson incident sparks employment warning

An employment solicitor has warned that businesses must have a strong equality and diversity policy in place, following two high profile incidents involving the BBC.

The warning comes after the recent furore surrounding the BBC, and presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s alleged use of an offensive and racist word.

Clarkson was reportedly given a final warning for his behaviour and has denied using the word.

Later a local broadcaster for BBC Radio Devon, David Lowe, played a 1932 version of ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ which, unbeknown to him, contained the same offensive word. After complaints from listeners, he was asked to resign.

Now Oliver McCann, partner in the Employment team at Napthens, has warned that the incidents highlight the need for businesses to have robust policies in place to deal with potentially difficult situations.

He explained: “It is very easy for staff to say something that they shouldn’t, and fall foul of the Equality Act which exists to protect people from behaviour which could be classed as harassment.

“This is classed as behaviour which violates another person’s dignity or creates a hostile, intimidating, offensive or humiliating environment for another person.

“It’s also important to remember that an employer can be held vicariously liable for the conduct of its employees, and compensation awards under the Equality Act are unlimited.

“Therefore, businesses should ensure that they do three things: have in place an employment and diversity policy; make sure staff are trained and understand it fully; and ensure that there is consistency of treatment of people in the application of the policy.

“If businesses do this and take potential breaches of the act seriously, they are more likely to have a strong defence against any discrimination claims.”