February 22, 2016

When Work Time becomes Play

As an employer, we realise that happy staff equals a happy workplace.  Treating staff to certain benefits can also be seen as a prerequisite to better performance overall – if staff feel satisfied in their job, feel part of the company and are rewarded for their efforts, it goes without saying that they are more likely to enjoy going to work each day and doing their best.  But there is always a thin line where employees can take advantage.  Perhaps you are generous with breaks, holiday time, pay et al or because they start to dislike what they are doing and don’t give their all to the job at hand; they may start to do their own thing in work hours because they think it will be disregarded or even permitted because they have gotten too comfortable and the line becomes blurred between a once happy employee to an unhappy one!

 

Misconduct at work could involve using the work PC to send personal emails to their friends when they are meant to be conducting an inventory, or using their mobile to send texts to their partner when they should be making sales calls.  Incidents such as these show why having an employee handbook with the right policies in is so important.  By assessing risks, carrying out inductions and outlining exactly what is and is not allowed in the work place from the get go, you will be able to present yourself in any instance from a much stronger position, and let your staff know what is expected of them without any grey areas.

 

We can see an example of this in a recent ruling, in which a company was taken to court for prying on private emails.  The engineer, whose employment was terminated due to sending personal emails in work time, from a work email and on a company PC, also lost his case against his employer for this very reason.  The employer had accessed his private messages, and the employee had taken them to a tribunal for infringing on his privacy.  As with most companies engaging in personal activity on company time is not allowed, and fortunately for the employer this was one of the clauses highlighted in the engineer’s contract of employment.  The employee had no room for manoeuvre in his defence and subsequently lost the case.  The importance of having a solid employment contract in this situation, has not only saved the company money but protected them from being labelled as a company that doesn’t take employees privacy into account.  If the employee had used his mobile in break time to send the email, then everyone would have been happy and gone about their daily business with no harm done.

 

What is clear here is that there were guidelines in place that the employee failed to adhere to, and the company had fully prepared themselves by having the right policies in the staff handbook to deal with such incidents.  Having your Employment Law and HR Support provider prepare and assess any documentation before your new employee signs on the dotted line, will help to prevent any future difficulties and also protect your business from the worst case scenarios, such as gross misconduct which we will look at in our next blog.

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