Pressure groups and lawyers have come together to warn major retailers they could face claims from staff of sex discrimination and sexual harassment under the Equality Act 2010 if they continue to display so-called “lads’ mags”.

Gender equality groups UK Feminista and Object joined forces with lawyers to launch the Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign on Monday. In an open letter published in the Guardian newspaper the campaigners warned:

“High-street retailers are exposing staff and, in some cases, customers to publications whose handling and display may breach equality legislation”.

There have been examples of staff successfully suing their employers in respect of exposure to pornographic material at work. However, there has never been a publicised legal case against any major retailer.

The Lose the Lad’s Mags campaign aims to put pressure on Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and WHSmith to remove the magazines from their shelves. If they fail to act, the lawyers threaten to bring a test case.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) denied that major retailers needed to be reminded of their responsibilities to staff and customers. The BRC said its members don’t sell anything illegal and have long followed industry rules. However, it acknowledged that: “this is an area where fixed definitions are difficult” and encouraged staff and customers to voice concerns: “Our members regard their stores as family-friendly environments which is why conversations with staff and customers about what they believe is appropriate will continue.”

Julie Keir

Julie Keir

Professional Support Lawyer at Brodies LLP
Julie is a Professional Support Lawyer and provides the employment team with essential resources including guidance notes, styles and training materials. She also produces regular blogs and client updates and maintains BResourceFull Workbox, the team's online HR resource.
Julie Keir