Swearing in the Workplace

In some working environments, swearing may be commonplace and culturally accepted as part of everyday communication between colleagues. But in other workplaces, swearing may be considered unprofessional, offensive and grounds for disciplinary action.

Employers must take the lead and make it clear to its workforce what kind of language is acceptable and what will not be tolerated. Managers or employers should not abuse their position of authority by using profanities and should refrain from using inappropriate language when under pressure or in heated situations.

The business stance on swearing must be upheld consistently if it is to be effective and to reduce the risk of complaints. This means ensuring all managers and supervisors understand the policy and procedures for dealing with issues relating to swearing and offensive language and are also aware of the importance of their own actions and behaviours in setting the standards within their teams.

Swearing in the workplace should be addressed within the business disciplinary policy or employee code of conduct. This should set out the employer’s position on the use of offensive and inappropriate language and for clarity, provide examples of what would be considered misconduct and subject to disciplinary action. The policy should also advise of the potential sanctions for failure to comply.

Importantly, employees need to be made aware of the expected standards through training, such as during the onboarding process, or as part of equality and diversity training.

Before any disciplinary action is taken, a fair procedure has to be followed. This means establishing the facts of the incident and viewing the use of language in the context of the circumstances and the organisation’s conduct policy.

In serious cases, you should look to see whether there are any mitigating factors. If a long-serving member of staff with a clear conduct record is being accused of gross misconduct due to an incident involving profanities, you should look to understand why they acted seemingly out of character.

Employers can be held legally responsible for the actions of its workforce, this means it is in the employer’s interest to ensure workers are aware of and trained on the business policy and standards of conduct, and that any complaints are acted on quickly to reduce the risk of costly discrimination claims.

Contact us at enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk and we will be happy to discuss any conduct issues you may be having in the workplace.

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