New regulations aim to clean up after office jokers

Think again before you send that oh-so-funny email about a colleague. It could land you in hot water

New regulations are to be brought in to resolve those painful occasions when that 'funny' workplace email ends up in the wrong inbox.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will, from 1 October, require businesses to have a statutory three-stage complaints process in place to deal with dismissals and disciplinary problems in the workplace.

The new regulations come after the publication of findings that nearly one in 10 employees has sent an email to the wrong person. The findings also showed that men are most likely to make this mistake.

The DTI also says that nearly a quarter of employees in London have suffered rebuttals from colleagues failing to see the funny side of their 'humorous' emails.

The DTI released the figures ahead of the enforcement of its new dispute regulations to highlight that accurate and effective communication has become essential in the modern workplace.

"Email gives great benefits for businesses, but getting the tone or timing wrong can result in a breakdown of communication at an individual level," said Gerry Sutcliffe, employment relations minister at DTI.

"Many businesses already have dismissal and disciplinary procedures in place, but for those that don't, the new regulations will help ensure that they avoid unnecessary costs and stress," he said.

When a dispute arises many employers are slow to act, according to the DTI, and previous research shows that in one-third of cases problems are never even discussed at all.

As a result, there were 115,000 employment tribunals last year, dealing with disputes over a whole range of issues, including sexual harassment and pay.

The results were complied by the British Marketing Research Bureau, on behalf of the DTI, and are based on a poll of 1,000 full- and part-time employees.

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