Tackling work-place gossip
Gossiping at work that is harmful or false is likely to be deemed as a form of bullying and may give rise to discrimination. It is clear misconduct and should be treated as such.
Though bullying is not of itself a legally actionable claim, it can amount to harassment under the Equality Act 2010. The Act protects employees against any unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, where that conduct has the purpose or effect of violating dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The protected characteristics under the Act for the purposes of harassment include age, disability, gender choice, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Therefore, if an individual is the subject of gossip at work that serves to violate their dignity or create a hostile working environment, and they possess any one of these characteristics, this will amount to unlawful discriminatory conduct. The gossip may not be intended to be malicious, but the effects of this behaviour can still easily cause offence or create a hostile working environment for the subject of the gossip or anyone else within earshot.
Workplace gossip can harbour distrust and conflict among co-workers, low morale or increased anxiety as rumours circulate without clear information as to what is fact and what is not, disagreement among staff as people take sides about what is being gossiped about, hurt feelings and reputations, in a nutshell -lost productivity and wasted time!
Do you have a suitable Dignity at Work policy? If not, contact us on 0800 9995 121 for further advice.