A recent case before Fair Work Australia concerned the sacking of a worker for engaging in “back-biting” or malicious gossiping, as it is more commonly known.
A worker at a childcare centre was accused of making comments about two colleagues, calling one lazy and the other an incompetent carer. She was dismissed by the centre’s owners for breaching their strict “no back-biting” policy, but Fair Work Australia ruled the dismissal was unfair, as the policy of terminating a worker for gossip was simply too harsh.
The case suggests that the punishments must fit crime – sacking someone for gossip does seem very harsh – but it also raises the issue of how employers should tackle the potential problem of gossip.
A policy is a great place to start. Make your approach to gossip about colleagues clear – a good suggestion is to request that any issues between staff are taken to management before shared with other team members – and make sure your staff understand it.
Set out how breaches will be dealt with (documented warnings and performance management should come well before termination) and regularly remind staff about the issue.
Get it done – today!