When the CEO of a top property firm left his blackberry behind after a trip, he simply ordered one of his staff to get on a plane. pick it up and return it to him. For his Head of Sustainability it proved a trip to far. The fall out lead to him being sacked and he made a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds that his environmental beliefs were so deeply held that they should have the same proection in law as religious beliefs.

Earlier this month a judge agreed and ruled that an industrial tribunal should hear his claim that he was sacked because of those beliefs.

What will the effect of this be for employers?

Well for a start a little more care and sensitivity will need to be taken where people have strong philosophical beliefs. If for example you employ someone with strong animal rights convictions and, in what is considered a shop floor prank, an animal pelt is left in their locker, this should be treated and investigated in just the same way as you would were the ‘prank’ racist or sexist.

Also some organisations may have to start doing more than paying lip service to the proud environmentalist banners they have been promoting themselves under. Do they need to fly staff around the country to attend hour long meetings in an age when conference calls are as easy via video links as they are over the phone?

Will there be a mighty swell of employees taking their bosses to court after this?

Some legal experts are predicting so (well they would wouldn’t they!) saying that it will “open the floodgates for others who believe their employers have victimised them simply because of their views”  (Peter Mooney – Head of Employment Law Advisory Service). They also believe it can open the door for a wider category such as feminism, vegetarianism and humanism.

Personally I believe a good employer already is aware of and respect their employees sets of beliefs and to ensure good working relations and environment acts to make sure they are taken account of. Yes companies will be taken to tribunals over this and the law will be further shaped by the outcome, but getting good advise and managing people effectively will help to reduce the risks that you could be among those cases.

On a positive note, the judge did outline five tests to determine whether a philosophical belief could come under employment regulations and where Humanism was given as an example of meeting the criteria, the Supreme Nature of the Jedi Knights didn’t.

Getting in with the boss

November 12, 2009

Jamie the up and coming personnel boy was leaving the office late one evening when he found the Head of HR standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

“Listen,” said the top HR man “this is a very sensitive and important document here, and my secretary has gone for the night. Can you make this thing work?”

“Certainly,” said Jamie. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.

“Excellent, excellent!” said the Head of HR as his paper disappeared inside the machine. “I just need one copy.”