Do I have to put up with offensive material at my workplace?

No. Everyone is entitled to work in a workplace free of offensive material.

Many organisations now specify in their employee rules that the circulation of materials in the workplace that could cause offence will be regarded as misconduct.

It may also involve your employer in a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Your employer must take your complaint seriously. It is usually a good idea to raise the issue informally first. Those involved may not appreciate that the material is offensive and may act quickly to remove it as soon as you mention it.

If an informal approach does not work, raise the issue formally following your organisation’s grievance procedure. Every employer should have one.

At this stage, it is often a good idea to start to keep a record of what you do to try to have your complaint dealt with, and of how your employer responds, including any changes in your manager’s attitude towards you, or in the behaviour of colleagues. Keep copies of emails, offensive screen prints and so on.

If you can’t sort things out with your employer, you can present a claim to an employment tribunal. However, you may well find that a better way forward is to try to tackle the issue collectively – for example, through a collective grievance put forward by a group of workers acting together. You are unlikely to be the only person who is offended by the material. Tackling this kind of issue collectively has many obviously advantages, for example, strength in numbers.

If you are a union member, speak to your rep for advice on the best way of going forward to tackle the issue collectively. If you are not a union member, browse our Union Finder tool to find out how to join a union and the most suitable union for you.

The deadline for bringing an employment tribunal claim for discrimination or harassment is very short – just three months.

The first step before bringing any tribunal claim is to submit an Acas Early Conciliation Form. This step is compulsory. You will not be able to bring your tribunal claim without it.

For information about bringing a tribunal claim, including information about Acas early conciliation and bringing your claim, see our Enforcing your Rights section.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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