Resources & Guides

Free Speech, Banter and Harassment

3 minutes
3 minutes
We’ve discovered fear, myths and uncertainty around free speech, banter and harassment in many workplaces. ‘Prevention is better than a cure’. Take a look at our responses to the most frequently asked questions or better still set up a relaxed environment, get some prizes in and use our quiz with your team to increase knowledge and understanding.

Does everyone in the UK have a legal human right to free speech?

Yes, free speech is a protected human right but there are certain limitations, such as speech that incites violence or poses a threat.

Can you freely say what you want, when you want, wherever you want to whoever you want?

At work free speech is accepted and welcomed but with boundaries as per equality law and organisational policies. Failure to keep within professional boundaries will result in consequences.

How would you define hate speech?

Hate speech refers to any speech, conduct, writing, or expression that promotes or incites hatred, discrimination, or violence against individuals or groups based on their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other protected characteristics.

Possible consequences of crossing the line between free speech and hate speech?

Examples include: Fines, imprisonment or both, loss of employment, breakdown in friendships.

How would you describe banter?

Key characteristics of banter:

  • Consensual: All parties involved understand and agree to participate in the teasing or joking.
  • Friendly: The intention is not to cause harm or offense, but to engage in a light-hearted exchange.
  • Context: Banter usually takes place in a comfortable and familiar environment where everyone feels at ease.

At work, how do you know if you’ve crossed over the line from banter to harassment?

It’s not always clear. Harassment involves behaviour or communication that is unwelcome, offensive, or causes distress to the recipient. It goes beyond playful teasing. Harassment happens when the person feels it has.

Do ‘free speech’ boundaries change in social settings? Eg if you’re out with family and friends?

What might be considered banter among friends might be perceived as harassment by someone else if they find it offensive or distressing.

What next?

We offer tailored Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training and can focus on areas your teams need.  Courses are available throughout the UK either as face to face courses or virtually. Contact us for details or book a call with us.

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