Special Feature on Constructive Dismissal Part 4: LinkedIn, Squeezed Out – The Future of Constructive Dismissal?

Image

In the final instalment of our constructive dismissal series, we look at the historical case of Flexman v BG Group ET/2701998/11.

John Flexman is reportedly the first person in the world to bring a case for constructive dismissal over social media.

Flexman was the Graduate and Development Manager of BG Group, a gas exploration company based in Reading, England. The problem started when Mr Flexman uploaded his CV and ticked the box in his LinkedIn profile page to register his interest in ‘career opportunities’. He was contacted by his manager whilst on a family holiday in the United States and ordered to remove his CV. On his return he was accused of ‘inappropriate use of social media’ and called to attend an internal disciplinary hearing.

BG Group claimed that Flexman breached its social media policies by uploading his CV to LinkedIn and ticking the “career opportunities” box on his LinkedIn profile. It also accused Flexman of breaching confidentiality by stating on his CV that he was assisting the company in reducing its “attrition rate.”  Flexman eventually resigned and claimed constructive dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal upheld Flexman’s claim of constructive dismissal due to unacceptable delays in the company’s dealing of the case and the company’s failure to address a grievance related to the incident.

Forbes’ Kashmir Hill contended that the conflict between an employee’s desire to brag about what they’ve done at a company and that company’s desire to keep such things under wrap is a common one in the social media age. “As I’ve written before, corporate spies say there are lots of juicy tidbits to be found in LinkedIn profiles. Also at issue here appears to be a company’s sensitivity to its employees playing the field. Finding an employee on LinkedIn seeking “career opportunities” is a little like discovering your significant other has an active OKCupid account” writes Hill.

Through their omnipresence and power to make or break public perception of individuals and organisations, social media sites are now pervading into contractual relationships between employer and employee and destroying the sense of mutual trust and confidence. Employers must ensure they are one (or a few!) steps ahead of employees and have proper social media policies in place protect their reputation as well as stop possible leaks of confidential information.

To us at Har Abada Nasara, the Flexman Revolution is a prophetic indication of the shape of things to come in constructive dismissal. This case may set the trend for a more litigacious generation in the workplace. Employers in general and human resources practitioners in particular must be prepared for this wave of change brought about by a new breed of employees who have savoir-faire in both law and technology. The need for human resources practitioners to master more than just everyday operational personnel management skills cannot be emphasised enough.

Advertisements

All In The Family – Why The Kinship Approach Is Vital To Organisations

Team Family

Most people spend eight hours a day or more at the workplace. The workplace has become not just a place to earn the daily bread but has evolved into somewhat of a lifestyle concept that impacts one’s thought processes, decision-making and personal life.

Ergo the workplace is a place in which employees would like to be happy, comfortable, and even feel like a second home with family-like atmosphere amongst the people they work with.

It is a good idea for companies to promote a family-like environment in the workplace so employees will be able to take in more positive influences and give out positive vibes in reciprocation to create a great organisational climate as well as strike a work-life balance for themselves.

There is a Malay adage that goes “air ditetak tidak akan putus” which means “cleaving water will not sever it”. The saying is akin to “blood is thicker than water”, referring to the enduring nature of family ties. In the business parallel, fostering kinship values and environment in the workplace can help to strengthen esprit de corps amongst employees, something which is worthwhile for every organisation to consider.

Policy is prime: creating a comprehensive employee handbook or manual that is clear and simply written would be an ideal first step. Seek employees’ suggestions for the manual so they feel a sense of belonging to the company.

Organisations can also help employees feel important by having regular townhalls or meetings where they can voice their opinions and concerns. This has a hidden benefit:  the organisation can gain valuable information about their business that may hurt the bottom line and immediately formulate appropriate action plans.

Hosting Family Days where employees can bring their real families, such as picnics, trips and dinners, where the management can mingle with the employees and get to know their families better, are also a great way of fostering the “family” sense. Employees who perceive that employers care about them and their families will be more productive and loyal as they feel “safe” with the organisation.

Family approaches are also conducive for emphasising trust: a team work environment where camaraderie means having each other’s back and not judging one another.  Employees are also more inclined to stick around during turbulent times when there is a cultural promise to unite as one in good times and bad.

Office ergonomics is also a vital aspect: just as the family home is comfortable, people at work need enough room to perform their jobs, the correct supplies and tools, and a pleasant environment. Organisations that take care of the ergonomic details of their environment are viewed as responsible employers.

Some simple tips:-

  1. Place lots of potted plants around. People feel healthier about themselves, their jobs and the work they perform when they feel a connection to nature around them.  If live plants are not an option, pictures or posters of outdoor scenes have some benefit.
  2. Change air filters regularly, and if appropriate, allow employees to keep their windows open to let in healthy fresh air.
  3. Utilise real sunlight when possible. If offices or workspaces don’t have window access, install ample overhead florescent lights.
  4. Offer healthy food choices in the cafeteria as healthy food helps people think better, improves mood and increases energy levels.
  5. Allow employees to personalise their work space, within reason. This can also be therapeutic for them as it allows them to relax by looking at family photos, vacation souvenirs or motivational mini-posters.

Finally, celebrate employees’ milestones both at work (promotions, completion of projects, jobs done well, positive feedback or praises from clients) and off work (marriages, new baby, graduations). Organisations which recognise, appreciate and reward are respected by their workforce. Respect brings about employee commitment and allegiance to the organisation which are crucial to reduce the employee turnover rate.