Recent news events have once more highlighted the problems that can arise for employers when their employees or those who represent them in some way act for themselves.
On December 28 the West Bromwich Albion footballer Nicolas Anelka made a sign, the “quenelle”, a form of inverted Nazi salute after scoring against West Ham.
As a result the West Brom sponsor Zoopla decided to end their sponsorship of the club at the end of the season. Zoopla, which is co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, will now “focus on other marketing activities”. Anelka, who is no stranger to controversy, has escaped punishment but his club have lost a sponsorship deal worth in the region of three million pounds, and may have difficulty in persuading another sponsor to endorse them.
Then on January 17 the UKIP Town Councillor on Henley Town Council, David Silvester, sent a letter to the Henley Standard in which he blamed recent floods on gay marriage.
An online petition demanding Mr Silvester’s resignation has attracted more than 24,000 signatures.
The amount of bad publicity this has engendered for the Council and UKIP has been staggering.
Some of the online parody including fake weather reports and shipping forecasts has been hilarious. Silvester is suspended by UKIP.
Clearly one thoughtless comment, letter, online posting or action can land an employee, worker or agent in very hot water, but this is often much less serious than the reputational damage caused to the employer or body represented.
This damage to reputation can result in a loss of revenue and can have very serious consequences.
Employers and other bodies should regularly review their staff handbook and media policies.
If this has not been done for some time it would be advisable to do so.
You have probably heard by now that the first same-sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from March 29, 2014.
Same sex couples who would like to be among the first to marry will need to give formal notice of their intention by March 13.
The legislation that makes this possible received Royal Assent in July last year and coming on the heels of the Equality Act 2010 it could certainly be argued that we are entering a period of greater equality.
This will not please David Silvester, or Hazel Mary and Peter Bull who refused to let civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall stay in a double room at their bed and breakfast in Cornwall in 2008, and had to pay a total of £3,600 damages.
The new law allowing same sex marriages also provides that those people who currently have a civil partnership can have it converted into a marriage with the date of marriage being backdated to the date of the original civil partnership. What we do not know yet is when this will become possible. However, it is anticipated that the procedure will be relatively straightforward and inexpensive. Anyone looking to upgrade in this way would be well advised to speak to a solicitor. Of course if you are in a civil partnership and things are not working out now may be the time to see a solicitor anyway!
Mark Pentecost is an assistant solicitor at Sanderson McCreath and Edney in Berwick upon Tweed.