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Diversity Dilemma: Colleague – Member of BNP? October 6, 2011

Posted by Sneha Khilay - Blue Tulip Training in Uncategorized.
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J works as a manager for a large reputable Children’s charity that prides itself on its high standards of promoting equality. J in a pub on a social visit noticed her colleague P (senior manager) actively participating in what she thought was a BNP meeting.

J and P have worked well together for a number of years. J has a high regard for him and acknowledges that P is well respected within the organisation. P takes proactive measures on the equality agenda.

J has now become more suspicious as entering P’s office unannounced (on two occasions) P would cover his paper work. J at the time thought he was working on confidential child care case but now wonders whether he was conducting BNP work and whether he was in fact hiding BNP literature.

J is not sure what action she should take: to challenge Peter directly of his (possible) involvement with the BNP or to discuss this further with her Director – also P’s manager.

J is feeling bewildered, had she been wrong about P after all these years of working with him?

Points for consideration:
1. Police and Prison Services have a ban on BNP membership, stating it is their duty under the Race Relations Amendment Act, now Equalities Act 2010- it would damage race relations and reduce confidence from the minority ethnic communities.
In contrast, MOD (Ministry of Defence) although find the views of BNP as abhorrent, states that individuals are allowed to join political parties as long as they uphold MOD values and standards.
The General Teaching Council for England, which registers all state school teachers, is clear that BNP membership was no obstacle to registration. There is no policy that states that people within the teaching profession cannot be members of the BNP.

2. Common sense would suggest that all professional staff would leave their politics at the door, and only a lack of professionalism should warrant a disciplinary/ dismissal.

3. Most of us abhor the BNP’s politics and the way it seeks to foment distrust and suspicion especially within communities that has an undertone of racial tensions. But its arguments, in a liberal democracy, need to be confronted head on, not suppressed. More importantly, its members should not be hounded out of their jobs for holding a point of view and belonging to a legally-constituted party that is allowed to contest elections.

4. From J’s perspective, she has two options; she can either ‘confront’ P directly about his alleged BNP membership and based on his response, can then take further action accordingly. Alternatively she could share her concerns to her manager, in confidence and explore further what the organisation’s remit is on BNP membership. The question that J needs to consider – is she duty bound to expose P’s involvement with the BNP?

5. There is some conflicting messages regarding P’s involvement with the BNP – on the one hand, he is actively involved in promoting Equality Agenda into practice and yet (allegedly) participates in BNP meetings. Has J got her wires crossed, maybe she thought it was a BNP meeting as opposed to a debate on racism. J would need to deal with the situation rather sensitively – to confront a reasonable person of their involvement in BNP activities (in a work context) is going to jeopardise future relationships. P could be horrified, offended and distressed by these claims made against him and may even take out a formal complaint against J.

6. J would need to read the policies and guidelines to fully understand whether it is ‘acceptable and appropriate’ for a BNP member to be employed by a Charity that works with Children.

7. Given that the organisation is a children’s charity, would it provide a service to parents who are BNP members? If so what message does it give about the organisation’s ethos and values – that it is acceptable to deal with people who are actively discriminatory towards minority groups? Equally if P is a member of BNP, what would his behaviour be towards Black and Minority Ethnic families requiring a service?

The British National Party (BNP) is a far-right and whites-only political party in the United Kingdom, According to its constitution, the BNP is “committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration and to restoring, by legal changes, negotiation and consent the overwhelmingly white makeup of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948. The BNP proposes “firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home. The party also advocates the repeal of all anti-discrimination legislation.

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Comments»

1. Sean Crawford - October 7, 2011

As a HR professional, I would advise J that she should raise her concerns with her manager and the HR Department.

The only policy that I would advise her to read would be the charity’s whistleblowing policy. These policies can be used for conduct which is an offence or a breach of law or other unethical conduct. If she made an allegation in good faith (whether verbal or written), but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against her. If, however, J made an allegation frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain, disciplinary action could be taken.

If the charity does not have a whistleblowing policy, these same principles will still apply.

Sean Crawford, FCIPD

2. Rose-Marie - October 7, 2011

In total agreement with Sean, speak with her manager, and also ensure that she is fully up to date with her charities policies in particular whistle blowing. It is one thing to have her suspicions or doubts, but another to accuse without fact

3. Samuel K Budu - October 11, 2011

With my experience in HR case work and as a fomer Employment Tribunal member, I disagree with Sean. This case is very hypothetical and J is only suspicious that P was attending a meeting supposedley made up of BNP members. Again, P is proactive active on equality issues at work.

From the background, the question/s that any reasonable person should ask:

what is the situation in the area (is racism and homophpobic activities high or low)?
is BNP active in the area?
is the pub a place that would attract a meeting of BNP?
assuming the pub a place that would attract BNP activity, would it be attractive to Jsocialise there?
who are those who patronise the pub?,
what made J to suspect the meeting was a BNP meeting?, etc.

It may be difficult for J to find aswers to all these questions but it would asist her to decide on what is the most suitable and appropriate action to take. There must be someting that should be reasonable to support J’s suspicion.

In my opinion, the first action is for J to mention to P seeing him/her at the meeting and find out what was the meeting was about. Depending, on the outcome of the discussion, J could take his/her concerns (if any) further using whaever policies of the employer.

I accept that P could pretend to be proactive on equality to hide his/her membership of BNP, but still P deserves the benefit of the doubt. What is important is whether P puts his/her (racial) prejuices (if any)into action.

4. Sean Crawford - October 12, 2011

Dear Samuel

I would disagree with what you suggest for this hypothetical situation.

It is not up to the individual to act like a private investigator in a work situation as described. She already has seen him in a situation in a pub that she construed as a BNP meeting. Although she may be totally wrong in what she perceived, she will now construe every action of P as confirming this occurrence eg hiding papers. If she confronted him, and P denied it, she would probably still think he was lying.

However, I would agree with your points that her manager or more formally HR should ask her some of the questions you note above.

Samuel Budu - October 12, 2011

Thanks Sean. Sorry if my response created the impression that J had to become a private dectective. That was not what I intended. As you said, J is only suspicious and that is the problem. J’s actions after seeing P at the alleged BNP meeting might be prejudiced and therefore whatever behaviour of P could be misinterpreted by J (including the alleged cover of materials by P).

What I tried to convey is that J’s suspicion and subsequent actions should be reasonable and ratioal. If they are actions that no reasonable and rational person would have taken, that could be unacceptable and infensible within the law, rules and regulations.

Let me just assure you that, the fact that I disagreed with you did not mean that you were wrong.

Samuel

5. Snéha Khilay - Blue Tulip Training - October 29, 2011

Thank you Sean, Samuel and Rose – Marie for your comments. We can go down the practical route for J to discuss her concerns with her manager, within the frame of policies and procedures.

However there is also another issue for J to contend with – she had a high regard for P, his professionalism and his commitment to Equality and Diversity. Her dilemma is tied up around:

Has she been wrong about P all along if he is a member of the BNP. How easy/practical is it for anyone to distinctly separate their personal values into their professional practices.

Equally if she is right about P, how does she continue to interact with him on a professional basis, with the knowledge that he upholds values that can only be described as discriminatory/racist. Is J going to be bogged down by ‘monitoring’ him excessively.

6. Mick Gillick MBE - December 1, 2011

Bear in mind – regardless of the distaste the BNP generates – they are a legitimate political party. What ‘policy’ does the organisation have on political membership? Freedom of speech/expression is a double edged sword.


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