Can a UK company legally forbid employees from discussing Ukraine and Russia? | LawHive - Solicitors & Lawyers Online
Can a UK company legally forbid employees from discussing Ukraine and Russia?
We got an email telling us that we shouldn't be talking about Ukraine or Russia while at work as it is unprofessional. We worked on IT (software development) and some of us are still working from home. We are a UK company and we have no Russian or Ukrainian colleagues that I know of. A colleague of mine told me not to talk about it during a zoom call as we were casually talking about it. Then he said "have you seen the email of the hr... It is ridiculous". That's the time I checked it and find out that we've told not to talk about it. Can they fire us for talking about the current situation? Also is this even legal to tell us what not to talk about ? How is it unprofessional when it's between my colleagues only? I'm offended. And I'm planning to wear a Ukraine flag tshirt when I go to the office. I'm in England btw Edit: grammar

Stephanie Harding

11th October 2021

+577

580 upvotes

Top Answer
> Can they fire us for talking about the current situation? Also is this even legal to tell us what not to talk about ? They can set any rules they like for their employees, as long as those rules are (a) reasonable and (b) not discriminatory.

Suzanne Carrol

6th February 2022

+22

25 upvotes

> We got an email telling us that we shouldn't be talking about Ukraine or Russia while at work as it is unprofessional. An employer can set out rules dictating certain conditions, so long as those conditions are not discriminatory, unreasonable or a change to the main terms of contract. Talking about the invasion of Ukraine isn't a protected characteristic, or a change to the main term of contract, and it can be argued that it's not unreasonable as; > we have no Russian or Ukrainian colleagues **that I know of** So you *might* have Russian or Ukrainian colleagues, for example. > Can they fire us for talking about the current situation? It depends on whether it's a reasonable request - can an employer outline a reasonable request in their workplace? Absolutely. Can you be fired for ignoring it - not necessarily right away, but persistence in flouting the request could eventually see you dismissed. (NB if you're there less than 2 years, yes you could be fired so long as it's not for discriminatory reasons, asserting a statutory entitlement etc). > Also is this even legal to tell us what not to talk about ? Challenging dismissal or the legalities would be tricky for the reasons I mentioned. There's no protections for political opinions, but there are for political **beliefs** as long as it can be demonstrated as a belief - very hard to do in regards to what you're talking about, as it would fail points 1 & 2 of the Grainger criteria, I would expect. > I'm offended. Raise a grievance if you like. > And I'm planning to wear a Ukraine flag tshirt when I go to the office. Up to you. Your employer has given you a clear instruction, so I don't think it'll end well for you.

Matthew Austin

6th February 2022

+194

197 upvotes

Just to add some context you may not have thought of, you have no ideas where your colleagues are at. They could have family there, they could just been nervous, the sort of people that believe all the hype about World War 3 and are stressed out of their minds. Yes, it's a bit OTT for HR to ban it but I'd bet anything that they only did so after a member of staff approached them. Ultimately, it's your employers space and if something is distressing or potentially distressing staff they have a right to ask people not to discuss it.

Verna Delaurentis

6th February 2022

+77

80 upvotes

Other people have covered the legal aspect but from a non legal aspect please show a bit of consideration for coworkers as well. This situation is extremely anxiety inducing for some people, and not everyone is currently in the right headspace or has the mental fortitude to be hearing about it all day long from coworkers as well as news and websites and everywhere else. Hearing the constant negative news can be extremely bad for things like anxiety, depression and PTSD. It can stop people being able to focus on their work. You also do not know which coworkers have friends or family in the area, who might be extremely upset by speculation or discussions of the negative things happening to civilians. This rule may be to protect your coworkers and help their mental health. I know I would be detrimentally affected if I had to listen my coworkers talk about the situation during work meetings whilst I was just trying to get on and do my job. If it's one on one, private conversations and your work is still being done, I don't really see how they would effectively police it anyway.

Eddie Estrada

6th February 2022

+65

68 upvotes

Why not ask HR what their rationale is behind this decision. There might be a perfectly good reason why they are asking you to not bring this up that you are unaware of.

Tanya Beaver

6th February 2022

+329

332 upvotes

It might be an idea to ask HR to clarify and maybe even formulate more general guidance. My first impulse would be to assume that they simply want to avoid conflict. We have a policy at work, something to the effect of "Exchange of political points of view among colleagues in the course of normal conversation is perfectly acceptable in the workplace and on company sites, as long as these discussions remain professional and respectful."

David Romero

6th February 2022

+164

167 upvotes

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