Royal Mail must act quickly to implement a nationwide procedure for staff to object against delivering material they find offensive or have a sensitive moral issue with, to prevent costly tribunal claims, an employment lawyer has warned.
Yesterday the Communication Workers Union (CWU) confirmed it had an agreement with Royal Mail which protected postal workers' rights to refuse to deliver election material that they felt was offensive.
Since last week, hundreds of workers have warned they will not deliver leaflets from the British National Party as they were concerned they could get abused by local residents offended by the material. The CWU said delivery workers had been threatened, chased and spat at for delivering some election leaflets.
Stephen Robinson, employment law partner at Davies Arnold Cooper, said: "It's essential a system is put in place to monitor material and a procedure is established for an employee to lodge a complaint or objection against delivery. A simple alternative would be to obey reasonable instructions to deliver mail, and failing to do so could be a disciplinary matter."
Royal Mail should also consider what other types of material could be deemed appropriate or inappropriate, in the realm of politics, religion or indeed any belief system, Robinson said.
Bob Gibson, CWU national official, said: "We have a national agreement with Royal Mail with a conscience clause which allows individuals to exercise their right not to deliver material which they find offensive or believe their customers may find offensive.
"It is not specific to any political party. We are protecting the rights of our members to be safe at work. Royal Mail has a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees."
Meanwhile, Royal Mail said it had a legal obligation to deliver election material under the Representation of the People Act.