Swearing at Work
- Employment Law
- 21st Apr 2023
Using the ‘F-word’ at work is no longer shocking in Britain, an Employment Tribunal Judge has ruled. Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment at MLP, considers the case in more detail. An Employment Judge has ruled recently that swear words have a ‘lack of significance’ in the modern workplace, with phrases like ‘I don’t give […]
By Gareth MatthewsMLP Law
Using the ‘F-word’ at work is no longer shocking in Britain, an Employment Tribunal Judge has ruled. Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment at MLP, considers the case in more detail.
An Employment Judge has ruled recently that swear words have a ‘lack of significance’ in the modern workplace, with phrases like ‘I don’t give a f**k’ being ‘fairly commonplace’. Employment judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto ruled that swear words no longer have the ‘shock value’ they once did.
The Judge found in favour of an employee who complained her boss swore at her by ‘dropping the F-bomb’ during a ‘tense’ meeting. Although, despite upholding the employee’s claim for unfair dismissal, the Judge determined that the claimant’s predicament was not exacerbated by the fact that her boss swore at her during the meeting.
So, what should employers take from this case – is it now free reign on bad language at work, in echoes of boardroom scenes from the television show Succession?
Well, the short answer is no. The law has always accommodated a degree of tolerance of swearing in the workplace, particularly in certain locations like the factory floor or high pressured environments in the City, describing it as ‘industrial language’. Yet, there has also been a cultural shift in recent years, with a move towards treating colleagues and staff in a more gentle and collegiate fashion, especially in light of the rising prominence of consideration of addressing diversity and wellbeing in our language and actions at work.
Essentially, context is everything. Employees should be encouraged to speak to colleagues and others in a professional and courteous manner, which should be reflected in policy documents and the conduct of management and senior staff. If, however, the odd expletive slips out, it is unlikely to signal a significant legal risk for employers.
If you would like advice from the Employment team at MLP Law in respect of any of the issues raised here or more generally, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or email@example.com, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.
About the expert
Stephen is the Owner of MLP Law and leads our Commercial, IP and Dispute Resolution teams which provide advice on all aspects of the law relating to mergers, acquisitions, financing, re-structuring, complex commercial contracts, standard trading terms, share options, shareholder and partnership agreements, commercial dispute resolution, joint venture and partnering arrangements, IT and Technology law, Intellectual Property, EU and competition law, Brexit and GDPR.
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