21 September 2016

Pulling a sickie can be bad for your employment health


Amber Melville-Brown
Partner | UK

A website previously unbeknown to this female media lawyer at least — TheLADbible – came to my attention when one of its stories gained national tabloid currency in the tabloids this weekend. The simple tale features an employee telling his boss he couldn't make it to the office: 'I won't be in today I think I've count (sic) kevs 24 hour bug'. The 24 hour bug, however, may in fact have been a bout of 24 hour boozing. And this was brought to the boss's attention when he spied a pic of a rather delicate looking staff member propped against a smiling fellow reveller. Problem for our boy is that while she included the snap of her with the culprit in his cups in her Snapchat stories, she was also friends with his boss. This is by no means the first high profile similar incident; people have been shooting themselves in the foot with faux pas on social media since it first sidled into our lives. This one may have made the headlines given the employee's manager added a touch of colour to the tale, in his own purple passage response: 'Caught right out on snap chat. Lying c***'. Social media sites have now been with us for a decade or more. But we still fail to remember that what we post online about ourselves, or what others may post about us, can be a permanent, potentially public publication. None of us would extol the dubious virtue of lying to one's boss, but an employee can make it twice as hard for himself by being so easily caught out; duplicity and stupidity are not exactly the qualities that one is looking for in an employee… Equally however, while an employee can end with egg on his face, or a P45 in his hand, a boss may not come out smelling of roses if he responds not in a cool professional manner, but in an unprofessional, hot-headed or unfair manner. A manager needs to consider his own reputation, and that of his or her business, in the manner of any potentially public response in order not to diminish the respect that clients, contacts and colleagues may have in an otherwise respectable business operation. Indeed, managers who shoot from the hip on social media might also face disciplinary action from their employer for intemperate language or behaviour. Here it seems, the manager preferred the approach of letting the punishment fit the crime; our sickie-puller was not sacked, but instead was given a week of less than attractive jobs at work, best presumably to focus his mind. Other employers may of course decide not to be so lenient. Employers should have in place sensible, workable social media policies governing the manner in which employees can use social media, and the manner in which they may review and police it, and these policies should be made clear to staff from their initial induction training onwards. Similarly however, staff need to grow up and reflect the respect that is shown to them by their bosses who (for the most part!) are human beings themselves; who understand that a staff member may unexpectedly let their hair down from time to time; and as a result could be unfit for work. Being honest with a boss is likely to be the best policy; lying to the boss will be a foolish mistake; not being aware of the risks of social media and lying and getting caught out, is bound to be bad for anyone's employment health.

Amber Melville-Brown Partner | London

Category: Blog