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A tribunal has once again confirmed that ‘it was just banter’ is no defence against a claim of discrimination and harassment.


An employee suffered regular comments from colleagues about being an “old white man” and too old and lazy for his job. He’d made a written complaint to the company owner stating the “slurring abuse” was causing stress and sleepless nights. The owner dismissed the alleged behaviour as just being “banter” and took no steps to resolve the complaint. The tribunal disagreed finding that the behaviour created a hostile and intimidating working environment amounting to harassment. The company was liable for age and race discrimination and ordered to pay more than £22,000 in compensation.

Practical takeaways

Zero-tolerance – act quickly, investigate thoroughly, and deal with all harassment and discrimination concerns consistently. Regularly communicate your policies to set your standard (think diversity and inclusion, bullying and harassment) and be sure to follow through on penalties on every occasion.

Training – equality, diversity and inclusion training should form a regular feature in your training schedule. Not only does it set the standard of what’s expected of employees (reducing potential litigation risk), it also gives you an opportunity to show a tribunal that you’ve taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring and that any claims should be against the accused individual/s.

We can help with making sure you’ve got the right training and policies in place – get in touch for more detail.


This update is accurate on the date it was published (08 March 2022), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

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