Three real life workplace horror stories (and how to handle them)

  • Employee Conduct
Peninsula Logo

Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

As it’s Halloween, what better time is there to share some truly gruesome tales of HR and Health & Safety disasters.

You sent us anonymous stories for our experts to unpack. And now, Peninsula’s HR Advice and Consultancy Director Kate Palmer and Director of Health & Safety Gavin Scarr Hall will share their thoughts on three scary workplace stories that’ll make you jump straight for your employee handbook…

Double trouble

An employer started to suspect that there was something not quite right with their newly hired employee.

They began to notice that one day their employee seemed to do a really good job at work. They were getting on well with colleagues.

Yet the next day, their performance would severely decline. And they would greet the same colleagues they had been friendly with the day prior like they were strangers.

The employer soon put two and two together and realised they were being bamboozled. It turns out the employee they had hired had an identical twin and the pair were swapping places, so one would be in work one day and the other would take their place the next.

It turns out the twin the company had hired was actually the worse performing employee of the two.

The employer let the employee (and their twin) go at the end of their probationary period.

What’s Kate’s advice?

When you make a new hire, remember you must carry out official right to work checks on all employees before their first day of work. If you employ a worker who doesn’t have a legal right to work, you could face a £20,000 fine (which is set to triple in 2024).

This means checking over passports and asking for photo ID. Of course, it may be difficult to recognise that someone isn’t who they say they are in the case of identical twins – when you’re unaware that your employee even has a twin.

However, it’s important to stress the importance of honesty during the recruitment process and that you understand your right to dismiss an employee if they have been untruthful at any point. You can also dismiss them if they are unable to do the job they applied for at an acceptable standard.


The abandoned sandwich

This story’s certain to put you off your lunch…

It started with a shriek that stopped everyone on the shop floor in their tracks.

An employee had made a gruesome discovery in the communal fridge. Having just gone to take lunch, the employee had reached into the fridge to pull out their sandwich, only to find it crawling with beastly bugs.

It turns out another employee had left rotting food in the back of the fridge for so long, it had become a health & safety hazard.

The two employees involved then had it out, which led to the pair of them exchanging hostile words and resulted in them both receiving verbal warnings.

What’s Gavin’s advice?

Food wars in workplaces are very common. Whether it starts with one employee taking someone else’s food, or in this case, dropping standards of cleanliness.

It’s important for employees to be responsible for the food they leave in communal fridges and employers to arrange regular fridge cleanings. Sometimes, employees may forget about food they’ve left in the fridge. It happens.

That’s why it’s worth leaving a notice on fridges to remind employees that there will be a cleanout of the fridges at a certain time every week. For example, you may remind staff that any food left in fridges on a Friday afternoon will be thrown away as part of the weekly clean. So, they should make sure they haven’t left anything in there that they don’t mind being tossed in the bin.

This will help to prevent hygiene issues from arising and an employee’s food being accidentally thrown out by mistake.

The inappropriate pictures

At first glance, it doesn’t seem that bad. Hitting the send button on an email only to realise they copied in the wrong person? Surely, that’s happened to everyone.

Well, it was that bad. Because not only was the recipient the wrong recipient, the email was actually meant for the employee’s partner – and it was a personal email, not a work one. And let’s just say the email contained images that were certainly not suitable for work…

The colleague who received the email was shocked and reported it to their manager. The manager called both employees in for a meeting and the employee who sent the email was dismissed for gross misconduct.

What’s Kate’s advice?

Employers should have a policy specifying that employees should use work equipment (like computers, laptops, and phones) only for work purposes. This also applies to communication via email, Microsoft teams, social media, and texts.

The colleague made the right move by reporting the incident and it’s important to make sure workplaces have strict policies around their communication platforms. This will help prevent the risk of incidents like this from happening and ensure employers take appropriate action against employees who violate the rules.

Do you have an HR or Health & Safety story to share?

If you’re dealing with a workplace issue and need some expert advice, tap the button below to speak to an expert today for free.

Related articles

  • equality for older workers


    General Election 2024: political parties urged to give older workers equal opportunities

    According to new analysis by the Centre for Ageing Better (CAB), the next government could boost the economy by as much as £9 billion a year if it gave older workers a fairer deal in the labour market.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Equality & Diversity
  • safety failings


    Drowning death sees BAM Nuttall fined £2m

    Construction company BAM Nuttall Ltd has been fined more than £2m following the death of a worker who drowned whilst working on their flood defence project in Leeds.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Grievance
  • compensation pay


    Directors involved in BHS collapse must pay £18.3m in compensation

    The High Court has ruled that two directors of collapsed retailer BHS must pay £18,364,448 in compensation to creditors to stop corporate risk-taking

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Dispute Resolution
Back to resource hub

Try Brainbox for free today

When AI meets 40 years of Peninsula expertise... you get instant, expert answers to your HR and Health & Safety questions

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.