A significant increase in racially-aggravated crime and workplace incidents in the UK following the Brexit vote should remind local employers of their responsibilities under the Discrimination Law, says Ogier employment lawyer Michael Little.

It was reported by the National Police Chiefs' Council in the UK that reports of hate crime rose 57 per cent in the weeks immediately after June's Brexit vote.

Although Jersey hasn't seen the same kind of behaviour on the same scale, it is a timely reminder for employers and employees to be mindful of the damage that office banter and harassment can do not only to the work environment, but also to their firms.

The Jersey Employment and Discrimination Tribunal has the power to make awards of up to £10,000 in discrimination-related cases, with awards for hurt and distress not exceeding £5,000 payable if applicable, by the employee themselves.

One of the high risk areas for employers is "office banter" where what some staff perceive as harmless workplace chatter can cause genuine distress, and an action before the tribunal

Where one employee engages in unwanted conduct to another that either violates that person's dignity or creates an "intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment", the law defines the conduct as harassment.

Michael Little, Head of Ogier's Channel Islands employment practice, said: "This is something that employers must be mindful of.

"Quite aside from employers' interests in maintaining a healthy and positive workplace environment in which staff feel valued and comfortable, the financial and reputational impact of a claim before the tribunal should not be underestimated."

The development of Jersey's discrimination legislation continues – from the start of next month, age will become a "protected characteristic" under the law. The key element to the new law is about retirement – initially, the regulations will continue to allow an employer to require an employee to retire at pensionable age. As of September 2018, however, employers will have to justify the need for employees of any age to retire.

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