There has been a rise in employment tribunals where defendants claimed their remarks were just banter, a massive 45% in 2021.
There were 97 tribunals last year in which one of the parties argued their comments were “just a joke”, compared to 67 in 2020.
There have been cases ranging from an Indian employee being called a ‘Cheeky Monkey’ during a round of golf, a female employee being called “menopausal” and “a dinosaur”, and an insinuation that an employee “must be gay” because they didn’t like football.
It is important to note that ‘banter’ was used unsuccessfully as a defense.
What is important to note, is that what might be funny or harmless fun to one person, might be incredibly upsetting or humiliating to another.
What can you do as an employer?
1. Take time to educate and train staff
2. Have clear policies and a zero tolerance on workplace bullying and harassment
3. Establish clear standards of practice
We understand that having humour in the workplace is important, it boosts morale, reduces stress and helps form relationships. However, it is important that employees remain wary of making jokes that stray into offensive territory, especially ones that relate to protected characteristics.
As employees yourself, would you feel comfortable repeating a comment back or having to justify it? If the answer is no, you should consider whether it is appropriate to say it in the first place.