Last week Conservative MP, Nigel Mills, was caught on camera playing the computer game, Candy Crush, on his tablet, while he was meant to be participating in a Work and Pensions Committee session on pension reforms.
This embarrassing situation for Mr Mills also highlights a common problem for employers, namely that of employees spending time when they are meant to be working actually doing other things, such as playing on-line games or texting or using Facebook or other
“Time theft” like this can be very expensive and annoying for an employer, but it’s important to make sure that you deal with the situation correctly and, as is often the case, prevention is better than cure.
You need to make sure that you don’t rush to impose disciplinary penalties as a knee-jerk reaction and, particularly where employees have worked for you for two years or more (and so have protection against unfair dismissal) you need to follow fair and proper
disciplinary procedures before taking action.
A fair procedure will almost always involve the need for the matter to be properly investigated and this will then need to be followed by a fair disciplinary hearing, with the employee being given a full opportunity to answer the allegation against them. If
you decide that there has been misconduct, then it’s also important to consider carefully what level of penalty is appropriate in the circumstances, and often this will be a warning rather than termination of employment. Indeed, for a first offence of this
nature, it may be best not to impose a formal warning at all, but to warn the employee on an informal basis, making clear that any further misconduct will be likely to result in formal action being taken.
As already mentioned, prevention is also an important factor in relation to this and these days it’s important for employers to have a clearly worded employment policy making clear what it is and is not permitted in respect of things such as games and social
media usage. The policy needs to set out what is and is not allowed and when and also needs to state clearly what the consequences of non-compliance with the policy are likely to be.
It’s also very important that in addition to having such a clearly worded policy, the employer also makes sure that it is brought to the attention of its employees and that they are regularly reminded of the policy’s requirements. Doing all of this will make
it less likely that your employees will engage in non-work activities while they are meant to be working and also will make your position far stronger in terms of taking disciplinary action if they do.
For more information about any of the above or for practical commercial advice on this or any other aspect of employment law, please contact
Nigel Crebbin of the Berg Employment Team on 0161 833 9211 or email him at
Follow us on Twitter: @Berg_HR
(The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should
be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.)