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Unbelievable real-life HR horror stories revealed

Kate Palmer - Peninsula UK

If you think HR experts are easy to scare – think again! Get ready for a fright

Coming in at number 5, the business owner who called to discuss an employee who was using significant amounts of work time to complete personal side projects. Unless this is something that has been agreed in advance, disciplinary procedures will apply. Before going down that route, however, it’s important to ensure that you have clear evidence that the employee isn’t fulfilling their professional responsibilities. This will help you avoid the potential nightmare of a tribunal claim

At number 4, the case of the putrid smell. What do you do when a member of staff’s personal hygiene is offending their colleagues? This was a problem faced by another client, who explained HR had already tried raising concerns with the person involved. It’s a good idea to keep things informal in cases like this and make sure there aren’t any underlying health conditions that could be causing someone to smell. A good approach is to remind employees that personal hygiene can be part of a dress code and if there are no reasonable grounds for not following them, this could be treated as failure to follow a reasonable management instruction.

Watch out, an imposter is about! Sitting at number 3, what can you do if an employee if found to have lied about their experience and capability? If you discover that an imposter in your ranks, you can follow the capability process to fairly discipline or dismiss them. If the person has been employed for less than two years, you may be able to speed up normal proceedings. As always make sure to check your contract or any short service clause beforehand.

At number 2, an employee sharing inappropriate or sexual content on work accounts will send shivers down any employer’s spine. There are two main concerns here; firstly, whoever sent the inappropriate image/content should be disciplined but you also need to consider the fact that the person on the receiving end may not have wanted it. If this is the case, there is potential for them to file a claim due to sexual harassment. Be prepared for this outcome and put measures in place to ensure that they feel supported by you as an employer during this time.

Topping the list of hair-raising horror stories, for one employer the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head when a love triangle became the centre of office politics. In these cases, it can be easy for usually rational employees to be overtaken by emotion. Remember that violent or aggressive behaviour is classed as gross misconduct, and you can fairly dismiss employees who act in this way. You must carry out a full and fair disciplinary process before taking any action, however. This includes conducting a full investigation, listening to everyone involved and taking witness statements. Reasonable explanations should be taken into consideration. If there are none, then you can proceed with appropriate disciplinary action.

*NOTE all these stories are real calls from anonymised to protect identity

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