HR horror stories: the blood-curdling problems Peninsula has had to deal with this year

It’s spooky season and no one is safe, not even the world of HR. Whether it’s the horrifying case of the green-eyed monster or safety going up in smoke, HR is always there to solve the mystery.

It's crucial to set workplace boundaries and let employees know that there are consequences for crossing them. You may think that some boundaries are clear, but any HR expert will tell you that’s not always the case.

To pay homage to the frightful festivities, we’ve pulled together some of the most terrifying tales and blood-curdling calls Peninsula’s advisors have handled this year.


Recruitment issues

Recruitment is a struggle for everyone right now, but what happens when your recruitment team crosses the line?

This was the case for one employer, who discovered that job applicants were being asked to submit nude photos. Not only that, the employee involved then circulated the photos around the team.

This raised two big concerns.

Obviously the employee was dismissed immediately for gross misconduct, but there was also the potential for sexual harassment claims from both the job applicant and the employees who were sent the images. A truly hair-raising situation for the employer, who got yet another fright when the employee then asked them to provide a reference.


On display

There were all kinds of spooky goings on in another workplace when an employee’s last day was made memorable, for all the wrong reasons.

It’s easy for lines to become blurred when colleagues become friends. But nobody wants to see a colleague running through the workplace in only their boots, with a sock covering their unmentionables.

This horrifying apparition greeted one workplace, exposing them to a lot more than they had bargained for.

Not only was the dress code – and all clothing - thrown out of the window, the employer was put at risk of a sexual harassment claim from spooked employees.


Jealousy at work

The green-eyed monster well and truly reared its ugly head for one estate agent, when an employee’s jealous boyfriend objected to her sharing a desk with a male colleague.

When the colleague was attacked at a viewing, the subsequent investigation showed that the boyfriend was the person responsible.

But, as every good sleuth knows, there’s always a twist to the plot…

The female employee immediately went on sick leave upon hearing of the attack, and the breakthrough in the case came when searches of her computer showed she was no damsel in distress.

Not only had she booked the fake viewing appointment to lure her colleague there, she had also been complicit in setting up the attack.


Safety first 

Not all Halloween pranks are terrifying, some really can be funny. But it’s important to remember that safety must always come first, especially in the workplace. And what one person finds funny, may be anything but to another.

One employer didn’t realise they needed to explicitly state that setting colleagues on fire was ghoulish behaviour. This led to two warehouse workers taking things way too far.

The men were cleaning up at the end of their shift, when one decided to douse the other in cleaning fluid and set it ablaze. Yikes!

Luckily it was only the hi-vis jacket that went up in flames and the man managed to remove it before receiving any serious injuries. Both men, however, found the whole incident hysterically funny and had absolutely no concept of the seriousness of it. They soon found out when disciplinary procedures were started.


Kate Palmer is HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula