Issue 689/February 2020
Your weekly bulletin of wit and wonder
Put on your TikTok and dance for ten...
A WEE PROBLEM
Why staff need to be free to pee
KAREN'S WILTSHIRE WALK
Our Mrs Clarkson is planning something monumental
STEPS TOO FAR
Would it make you happy if I danced? Would it make you even happier if the entire WG Towers Employment Team danced?
Are you even now throwing up your arms and singing out: ‘YES! Dance! DANCE for me, my pretties!’?
Because according to a piece on BBC Breakfast this week, dancing while at work is becoming a bit of a thing. The trend has arisen from social media platform TikTok, which is set up to showcase ten second videos shot on mobile phones.
TikTok dance videos are now going viral around the planet and workplaces seem to be the most popular backdrop. Which can sometimes be awkward. I mean, a bit of fancy footwork in the bakery section of Asda is one thing, but getting all twinkle-toed in a funeral parlour might be frowned upon. Employers are now being asked to revisit their social media staff guidance with a TikTok ten second moment in mind.
But inappropriate locations aside, can dancing staff bring their employers into disrepute? We’re wondering this, here at WG Towers. After all, what employer doesn’t want the world to know that its staff are so happy they’re up on their feet and doing the conga? Of course, the conga around the accounts department is one thing... twerking across your pizzeria’s salad bar is quite another. I guess it all comes down to context.
So if we ever DO post ten seconds of dance on TikTok, we’re thinking a quadrille or a Scotch reel - Regency style - the kind of thing you’ll see in a Jane Austen TV adaptation, where nothing more charged - or unhygienic - than a brief palm to palm press is on show.
We’re thinking it will showcase our famous attention to detail. We might also do gowns... and Howard and Martin are thinking frock coats. Then we’ll have to take classes, of course, and... well, we’ll let you know when the ten seconds are ready; and if they’ve been cleared by health and safety. We’re nothing if not spontaneous around here.
What dance would suit your line of work? Tell us over on our Facebook page! Better still - SHOW us! (Just check your social media policy first...)
LONELY AT THE SHOP
And speaking of the need to trot brings me to the case of Harkness v Holland and Barratt and a catalogue of HR neglect which ended badly in the Employment Tribunal (ET).
Miss Harkness was employed by Holland and Barrett from 2011 eventually becoming manager at her store until her resignation in 2018. She had been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC), resulting in stress-induced pain and a need to urinate more frequently. She had also been diagnosed with emotional unstable personality disorder and experienced anxiety and panic attacks, also caused by stress.
A newly appointed sales manager, Mr Gold, was selected to supervise various stores, including Miss Harkness’ store. He attended meetings to discuss reductions of staff hours across all stores which would lead to the possibility of lone working, meaning one member of staff might have to work on the shop floor alone for portions of the working day.
The ET later heard that Miss Harkness had raised concerns that she would be unable to lone-work due to the prospect of her IC causing her to need to immediately urinate. Mr Gold had stated it would not be necessary for her to work during the portions of the day when lone working could occur.
However, Miss Harkness was still at risk of lone working as the only other key holder for the store worked part-time. Miss Harkness contacted Mr Gold to state that the company would need to enter consultation with staff on the hours as these were not agreed. Following an altercation with Mr Gold, Miss Harkness tried to contact HR but the HR representative was on holiday at the time and did not follow up on this.
On the morning of a day Miss Harkness was due to work, she had left Mr Gold a voicemail expressing she was unable to attend due to her anxiety. HR sent a letter to Miss Harkness asking her to make contact with Mr Gold, stating that if she didn’t it would be assumed she intended to terminate her contract. Although Mr Gold later heard the voicemail, the letter was not retracted.
Miss Harkness then had a welfare call with another member of staff in which she told them that the role had become too demanding and she would prefer a head office role. She was informed to look at internal job vacancies.
Miss Harkness resigned and cited stress caused by Holland & Barratt’s behaviour.
The ET held that Miss Harkness’ disabilities had put her at a disadvantage and the possibility of Miss Harkness having to work alone was a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. They held that the company had failed in their duties as neither Mr Gold or HR had attempted to support her when they should have “actively sought a solution with the employee”.
This case demonstrates the necessity for employers to make reasonable adjustments and that various examples of a lack of support shown to an employee, and the failure to make reasonable adjustments, can result in the possibility of discrimination claims proceeding.
I’m delighted - and very impressed - to share the news at our own Karen Clarkson is planning a marathon walk to Stonehenge later this year.
Karen will be stepping out (you see, we do theme this newsletter!) and raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Society by walking for 26 miles to the Wiltshire stones in September. She would appreciate any support you can give to keep her going over the next few months of training - check out her Just Giving page.