Square Circle: Brexit – should you share your opinions with your staff?


Brexit – should you share your opinions with your staff?

We all remember the emotion at the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum and the divided opinion and heated debate it created in the workplace. The EU Referendum on the 23rd June is likely to generate a great deal of debate with business leaders and senior management expressing their opinions on whether we should stay in the EU or exit. 

So should organisations share their views on Brexit with their employees and the perceived impact on their business?

A CIPD article in People Management on this subject quoted a partner at an international law firm, as saying there is no reason an organisation cannot tell its employees how their senior leaders view the referendum, and can urge them to vote the same way. The supporting argument for this was that a director has an overriding duty to act in the best interests of the company and if they reasonably considered the best interests of the company are advanced by a particular outcome they can publicly express that view, and encourage staff to vote in agreement.”

What was stressed in the article is that businesses must not be seen to harass its employees or interfere with their right to vote as they wish or fearing any consequences if they adopt a different view. The article does say that if a company has officially decided to support a particular view, or to remain neutral, any senior employee who publicly speaks out in defiance of that decision could potentially face disciplinary action.

It may however be a different situation with leaders in the Public and Third Sector as often there is a constitutional requirement to remain neutral. Many businesses have voiced their opinion on the referendum, with others choosing to remain silent. There are firms that have even gone as far as writing to their staff to set out their opinion on the referendum decision and the potential perceived impact on the business.

The CIPD article goes on to quote a Business School Professor saying it is “condescending and patronising” for a business to tell its employees where it stood on the matter, implying that staff cannot make up their own minds independently and that research indicates that if staff are dissatisfied with a company’s leadership they may do the opposite of what is being asked of them!

So it seems that the question is whether there is established trust and confidence between employers and their staff. If there is a healthy, open, collaborative culture then it seems staff are more likely to listen and trust their employers

If you would like to discuss this article or any employment matter please contact
Alison Welsh, Director by email on alison@squarecirclehr.com