Blog: Dean BestDon't over-do it this Christmas

Dean Best | 13 November 2007

As we approach Christmas and the festivities the holiday season brings, a warning emerges from Australia.

According to reports, Woolworths, Australia’s largest retailer, has sacked a manager for having two beers over lunch with a work colleague.

Apparently, Tony Selak, 36, who had worked for Woolworths for 18 years, was reported to managers by a third colleague who had spotted the two employees drinking beer in a local restaurant at lunch.

Woolworths sacked Selak in May; two weeks ago, Selak’s claim of unfair dismissal fell on deaf ears when Australia’s labour relations body backed the retailer.

Woolworths insisted Selak and his colleague broke the company’s “zero tolerance” policy on drinking alcohol during working hours.

That seems over-zealous. Sure, alcohol shouldn’t be consumed if one is operating heavy machinery backstage away from the shop floor. However, Selak was a store manager taking a colleague to lunch, a colleague who, by all accounts, was considering leaving the business.

Two beers at lunch would not have prevented Selak from performing his duties that afternoon. The punishment does not fit the crime.

During my university days, I worked for one well-known UK retailer; if they had pursued Woolworths’ strict guidelines, I would have been shown the door very early on.

So, a lesson for us all this Christmas. Study the small print of your contract and don’t over-do it. Or perhaps, more pertinently, don’t get spotted by a snitch of a work colleague.


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