Friday, 11 October 2013

Think before you speak - or face the consequences

Staff who bad mouth their employer or the company they work for could face the sack, according to our employment law specialist.

But shockingly, if the remarks were made in a private setting, they could escape disciplinary action, no matter how derogatory their comments were.

John Mehtam said the immediate reaction would obviously be for directors to step in and discipline the employee. “But this situation needs to be handled sensitively, despite how angry an employer may feel at the time. We’re all guilty of talking down our job after a particularly tough day, but how can you tell when an employee has crossed the line?

“First you have to establish that the person passing on the comments is telling the truth – and not only do you need to find out what was said, you need to know the context of where the remarks were made.

“This is because comments made in private, perhaps between a husband and wife in their own home, are none of the directors’ business, even if the comments are terrible. But if they’re made in public, it’s a different matter. It’s easy to blur the two situations though – a conversation between two workmates in the pub, depending on the facts, could fall into either camp.”

John said if the comments were directed towards an existing or potential client, it would be hard for the employee to argue it was a private conversation.

“Before you step in, if the comments were made in public, you need to find out from anyone who was present just how bad the remarks were. Was it just a moaning session at the end of a difficult day, or a malicious and calculated attack on your company and its reputation?

“This will be the key as to whether formal disciplinary action is necessary. If the employee apologises quickly for their actions (to you and everyone else involved), then it’s unlikely sacking them could ever be justified. And even if it’s just a grumble, giving the employee a written warning is sure to discourage them from making similar mistakes ever again.”