Should you tell your staff how to vote in the EU Referendum?

17/06/2016 Filed under HR

The vote on the EU referendum on 23rd June is just a few days away and businesses are becoming increasingly active in voicing their positions on Leave or Remain. While reasonably stating a company’s position on Brexit is entirely permissible, being aware of not being condescending or patronising to employees is important.


The upcoming referendum is the most significant single issue to be put before the British public in a generation – and it’s only natural that business leaders and senior directors will have their own opinions on whether the country should remain part of the EU.


Whilst some businesses such as Airbus, Siemens and law firm Clifford Chance have all been unafraid to communicate their views on the topic directly with employees, but others are remaining on the fence, or have even explicitly banned staff from publicly discussing the topic.


There is no reason an organisation can’t tell its employees how senior leaders view the referendum, and can even urge them to vote the same way. A director has an overriding duty to act in the best interests of the company and if he or she reasonably considers the best interests of the company are advanced by, for example, the UK remaining in the EU, it is entirely permissible to publicly express that view, and to encourage staff to vote in agreement.


Businesses must not be seen to harass its employees or interfere with their right to vote as they wish, however, if a company has formally decided to support a particular view or to remain neutral, a senior individual who publicly speaks out in defiance of that decision could face disciplinary action.


So, should you tell your employees where the organisation and senior leaders stand on Brexit?


Announcing a company view could impact senior leaders who have different views and wish to publicly express these but encouraging your senior leaders to express their own views with the company’s best interests at heart could inform your workforce of the impacts of the organisation whether Leave or Remain. Offering your staff the facts on how either position would impact the company and allowing them to express their opinions without the fear of consequences would eliminate the moral and ethical risks of suggesting which way individuals should vote whilst giving them clear information with which to make up their own minds.