Employers Bulletin

DISMISSAL

Inappropriate comments on social media

It’s becoming more and more common to hear of reports involving staff who have been sacked for posting inappropriate comments on social media websites, for example the Metropolitan Police recently confirmed that since 2009, it has dismissed seven people for this very reason. West Midlands Ambulance Service has recently sacked someone for posting badly chosen comments on Facebook.

Whilst it remains to be seen if any of those will result in tribunal claims, if does beg the question for all employers – can you dismiss an employee simply because you don’t like something they’ve said online?

– you can, but your position must be watertight.

You can only dismiss (or discipline) an employee for their online activities if they knew in advance that such behaviour would be unacceptable and it has caused your business serious harm. So make sure you have a robust social media policy in place, ensuring you make all of the ‘unacceptables’ crystal clear and staff know its contents. If you miss something out you won’t be able to dismiss for it later.

My social media policy deals with the main problems that could affect you, but we can of course go even further to protect you. If this policy is then breached, you can take disciplinary action.

PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

Hot-headed employee – how do you deal with this type of situation?

You’re bound to have a jumble of personalities among your employees and it may be you have an employee with a tendency to fly off the handle, even at the smallest thing. So what’s the best way to tackle this?

  • As hard as it may be – don’t shout back or raise your voice – the matter will only escalate!
  • Don’t make any personal comments
  • You should, however, raise their unacceptable reaction with them later when things have settled down again
  • Don’t interject unless you have to and avoid phrases such as “calm down” or “can I speak?” this will only make matters worse
  • It’s important to remain calm and politely ask the employee to gather their thoughts and to come and find you in a few minutes – then walk away. This gives them time to reflect on their outburst and means your next conversation will be on a more controlled and relaxed footing
  • Another thing to consider in this situation is that their outburst is more than likely a cover for another emotion – so you need to find out why the employee has blown up at you. E.g. do they feel overwhelmed with their workload; are they experiencing some particular difficulties?
  • At the start of your next conversation with them ask your employee whey they feel so strongly about this (i.e. whatever it was they blew up about) and don’t use the word “upset” as that suggests unreasonableness on their part (even if it’s true!). Try to find some common ground, it’s important you have an honest and open discussion, and ask them to offer solutions.

CONTINUITY

Can a new employee attend work before their official start date?

There may be an occasion where a new employee will come in to the workplace prior to their official start date, perhaps for training or to meet other members of staff. Would this event trigger the start of their period of continuous employment or not?

Providing you don’t demand their attendance, i.e. it’s entirely voluntary, and they receive no pay for their time, the period of continuous employment will not be triggered at this point. However, to keep the employee sweet, you may agree to cover their expenses and / or grant them time off in lieu for the hours that they’ve given up.

Sending an invitation to the new employee, by way of a letter, and clearly stating on what basis they will be attending will further support that this event does not start their continuity of employment.

PEOPLE MANAGEMENT

How to handle a sensitive issue – Body Odour!

If you have received some compelling complaints about a member of staff or indeed noticed the problem yourself, it’s likely that clients/customers will have too! This matter will have to be tackled, without delay, and must be raised face to face.

Ideally the conversation should be dealt with by a manager of the same sex and a discussion of this nature must be held in private. Tact and diplomacy is essential and holding the meeting at the end of the day is a good move.

It’s preferable not to mention the complaints you’ve received, this will only add to the difficult situation and potentially cause further embarrassment; express concern and suggest some possible solutions. Keep a note of what was discussed and agreed, this will give you the necessary evidence if you need to take disciplinary action at a later date.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

Occupational health case management

When it comes to dealing with health-related matters, an occupational health advisor (OHA) may prove rather more beneficial to you than an employee’s own GP. However, using an OHA does not always result in a trouble free exercise.

A move towards an OH case management service provider may be an option worthy of consideration. These companies employ trained case managers who act as a single-point of contact for all your OH needs. They will deal with one employee or your whole workforce. Costs vary between providers, but a one-off case starts from £395 + VAT.

Click on this link to locate a provider http://www.cmsuk.org/

GROSS MISCONDUCT

Whilst there’s no legal definition of “gross misconduct”, it’s by and large accepted to be anything that fundamentally undermines the employment relationship, i.e. their behaviour should either 1) be deliberate and wilful; or 2) amount to gross negligence. So if you summarily dismiss an employee for gross misconduct, make sure you have previously warned an employee of the consequences should they fail to follow your rules and procedures otherwise they may succeed in a wrongful dismissal claim!

Make sure you set out a list of gross misconduct offences in your staff handbook or as an appendix to your terms and conditions of employment. If you are going through the disciplinary procedure with an employee, they must be notified of the risk of summary dismissal at every stage.