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People Matter February 2017

Twit on Twitter

An interesting Tribunal case in January brought social media misconduct back into sharp focus.

The case, Creighton v Together Housing Association Ltd, centred on tweets sent up to three years previously.

The longstanding employee, a heating engineer, was being investigated for bullying. During the investigation, the employer uncovered historic derogatory tweets posted about the company by the employee. We can’t print them here but, rest assured, they were full of profanity!

After carrying out a disciplinary process, the employer threw out the bullying charges but dismissed the employee due to the tweets. They judged that they constituted gross misconduct.

The case ended up in a tribunal, which ultimately found in favour of the employer. The judge dismissed the employee’s arguments that the tweets were posted two to three years ago, were assumed to be private and that he deserved to be treated sympathetically for 30 years’ service.

The case highlights several points for businesses to recognise. First, that private social media use should be on organisations’ radar. We strongly recommend having a social media policy. It not only educates employees about what is and isn’t acceptable, but also gives employers a clear framework to take disciplinary action. Second, it highlights the importance of following due process. The judge noted that the organisation had given the employee the chance to explain his tweets, and he had not come up with a satisfactory explanation. Third, the age of the tweets was not material to the dismissal.

Emoji fail

Hunting for jobs isn’t easy. Setbacks are to be expected, but rejections rarely come via text as they did for this applicant. Moments after leaving her interview, she received a text message telling her that she’d been unsuccessful in her interview, sounds OK? It was also followed up with a highly insensitive laughing face emoji and a comment that they found the applicants interview answers ‘basic’.

After a very unprofessional encounter with the recruitment team the restaurant eventually apologised. The restaurant has ensured that this incident won’t happen again and that the recruitment team do act with the upmost professionalism and strive to give constructive feedback to all who apply.
If you want to avoid a situation like this, with The HR Dept we offer a comprehensive recruitment service which can provide your business with interview questions, job descriptions and much more to help you through the recruitment process. For more information, please get in touch!

Shared Parental Leave: Is it coming

With the introduction of Paternity Leave last June and with a further two weeks being added to it in September, could Shared parental leave may be on its way for Ireland? The Taoiseach has only yet suggested that companies should adopt a Shared Parental Policy. Doing so would help both parents share the responsibility of child-rearing, promoting gender equality in the workplace. Is this something you want to implement? The HR Dept is there to help you put together the policies you’ll need.

Tipping point

Prominent players in the restaurant industry have come under fire recently. The reason? Various perceived underhand, or even illegal, practices when it comes to paying staff. Let’s take a look at some of these cases with our HR hats on.

How tips are allocated is one issue. Prominent chains such as Las Iguanas and Turtle Bay require waiting staff to pay 3% of sales each evening to their managers – regardless of how much they are actually tipped. Employees have equated this to having to pay to work a shift.

There are several issues here that we would be looking at as HR advisers. Considering the law first, there is a chance that taking money from staff could result in their overall pay dropping below the National Living or Minimum Wages. This could lead to fines, naming and shaming and the awarding of back pay. Even if contracts were worded to cover this eventuality, it’s essential to ensure that what happens on the ground reflects the contract.

Then there is the question of employee morale and motivation. If you get your remuneration package wrong or inflict perceived injustices, you may find it difficult to hang on to good staff, or to get decent productivity – not good for the long-term prospects of a business.

The restaurants in question explain that the funds collected go back into incentive schemes for non-waiting staff. This may be fair enough but, as with all policies, it is important to communicate these effectively to employees to ensure they are understood.

It is not just tipping that has landed restaurant owners in a pot of hot water! Celebrity chef Michele Roux Jr got into trouble for paying staff below the minimum wage at his acclaimed La Gavroche in Mayfair. How did this come about? Because of the long hours that staff worked beyond their normal shifts. It highlights the importance of keeping on top of payroll as well as staff time and attendance.

For help complying with the law and putting effective remuneration packages in place, call The HR Dept.

A coffee a day means productivity is here to stay

Want a 7% increase in productivity? Get a coffee machine! That’s according to Survey Partner ONE. And there are plenty of other indications that coffee can be the lifeblood of the workplace:

It fights off sluggishness – It’s well-known that caffeine is a stimulant that enables employees to remain focused for extensive periods of time.
It can lower the risk of depression – Of course it is a serious condition, but a Harvard study found that women who drink four or more cups of coffee per day have a 20% lower risk of developing depression.

It improves employee relations – A chat over a coffee is the perfect way for employees to develop good relationships – and that’s according to MIT.
It could even maintain integrity – Fortune reports that employees are less likely to adopt unethical practices if they are awake and alert.


…Or in Japanese: KunKun! It is also the name of a new gadget that you can plug into a smartphone to create a body odour smelling device.

It was invented in Japan to by-pass awkward conversations with ‘whiffy’ colleagues, by allowing them to monitor themselves using technology. Ultra-polite manners in Japan make such conversations difficult. But let’s be honest – they are not the most fun ‘chats’ to have here either.

So could KunKun spare blushes in the UK? Body odour can certainly be a workplace issue: unpleasant for colleagues, but also a cause of tension and bullying. Of course, managers should be proactive. But if not handled correctly, conversations addressing the issue can cause offence and damage professional relationships.

It’s a big leap to imagine KunKun catching on over here. So, for now, a professional approach to the awkward conversation is what’s required.

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