HR Horror Stories – Ghosts, Goblins and Ghouls, By Eluned Ward
As Halloween draws close, it’s only fair that we provide some cautionary tales of when things go wrong when dealing with employees
As individuals we are all affected by what has happened in the past, and this is much the same for companies. Before companies make decisions around employees, including their terms and conditions or the outcomes of grievances and disciplianries, they need to review what has happened in the past and consider what the implications of introducing new systems/payments etc would be. In the Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Peacock Stores v Peregine & Ors, the Company had tried to make redundancy payments based on statutory requirements, whereas in the past they had paid enhanced redundancy payments. The Company did not have a written policy on redundancy nor were there any clauses in the employment contract relating to redundancy. 3 employees brought a claim for enhanced redundancy payments and the EAT found based on custom and practice the employees were entitled to the payments. By not having a clear policy in place and having consistently paid enhanced redundancy terms previously, the Company set a precedent. With the average cost of defending at ET claim is around £9,000, this proved to be a very costly ghost.
A goblin is a mythical creature of British folklore, often believed to be the evil, or merely mischievous, opposite of the more benevolent fairies and spirits of lore. Now we are not suggesting that employees are goblins, but some can cause mischief in the workplace and if you ignore this behaviour not only does it impact on productivity and performance of the individuals and other employees, if taken too far it has cost implications and can damage a company’s reputation. In the Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse Ltd employment tribunal case, two employees updated a Managers’ Facebook status to say “Finally came out the closet. I am gay and proud.” The employee brought a claim of sexual orientation discrimination even though he was not gay. The ET upheld the claim and held the company liable as it involved dealings between staff and their manager and the entries had been made by the employees during work at the workplace.
Ghouls are considered to be the evil spirits associated with the undead including zombies. Whilst hopefully you may not see many zombies in the workplace, you may have presenteeism which can be a whole lot scarier. In the most recent CIPD Absence Management Survey it found that 31% of employers have found an increase in employees attending work when they are clearly not well. By employees coming into work when they are unwell, not only are they not performing to their full capacity, they can also spread the illness around the company which can result in more lost days due to sickness absence. Legal and General has calculated that presenteeism can cost employers three times more than sickness absence, and with the average cost of sickness absence per employee being £889 per year, this is a staggering cost to any company. Companies need to consider carefully its absence management systems and how best support employees to ensure they do not encourage presenteeism.
To avoid our cautionary tales of ghosts, goblins and ghouls, companies need to ensure they have robust policies and procedures in place, fully trained managers who are well equipped to deal with issues, a comprehensive wellbeing in the workplace programme and before decisions are made companies must consider what precedent it sets.