Staff at Hachette UK working on J K Rowling's new book The Ickabog have threatened to down tools over the author's recent comments affecting the transgender community.
It is understood that between four and five employees, whose roles span the breadth of the full publishing team, communicated their reluctance to work on the project in a meeting held yesterday morning, and that these staff are now being spoken to individually by their managers.
Hachette UK has released a statement drawing a line when it is and isn't valid to refuse to work on a book project.
"We are proud to publish J K Rowling’s children’s fairytale The Ickabog," reads Hachette UK's statement.
"Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of publishing. We fundamentally believe that everyone has the right to express their own thoughts and beliefs. That’s why we never comment on our authors’ personal views and we respect our employees’ right to hold a different view.
"We will never make our employees work on a book whose content they find upsetting for personal reasons, but we draw a distinction between that and refusing to work on a book because they disagree with an author’s views outside their writing, which runs contrary to our belief in free speech.”
Speaking further with The Bookseller, a spokesperson has clarified it will not be taking a blanket approach to how it deals with employees' objections.
"We are approaching all the conversations with empathy and compassion and on a case-by-case basis," they said.
Standalone fairytale The Ickabog was announced last month. It is being released for free online, with an illustrated edition to follow from Hachette Children's Group imprint Little, Brown for Young Readers in November 2020.