Tacit agreements are useless, make it explicit

I was out walking our woofer the other day, in the snow and sleet, obviously, now that we’re in the middle of a drought.

The route, which was a new one, took us along a woodland walk towards a high school.  As we came to the exit of the walk we had to run the gamut of smoking teenagers.

Er… the teenagers weren’t on fire, they were smoking cigarettes.

Now, I’m no evangelist and, although I don’t smoke myself, I’m not going to judge those foul and disgusting youths in any way.  Besides, they were a fair bit bigger than me.  And, as they seemed to be ignoring me I decided that discretion was the better part of valour (in the same way that cowardice is the better part of discretion), put my head down and walked passed.

A couple of hundred yards later (metres, for Europhiles) I entered another part of the woodland walk and guess who I saw?

Nope, you’re quite wrong.

It was a group of teachers, hiding in the woods, just like their students and all of them were smoking a fag.

Quite clearly, there was a tacit agreement between teachers and pupils:

We’ll smoke in this location, you smoke in the other place and we’ll all get on famously.

Unfortunately, in HR, these tacit agreements just don’t work.  You know the sort of thing… you don’t actually say anything, but everyone just sort of understands that the agreement is in place.

All well and good until there’s a problem.  I know of a case where there was a tacit agreement not to stand on a desk to change a light bulb.  But a member of staff did, the inevitable happened and they sued their employer for the injuries they sustained in the fall.

The employer’s defence; that there was a tacit agreement not to stand on the desk like a muppet, held no water.  The tribunal said the instruction should have explicit, i.e. the employer should have physically said (and preferably written down and got the employee to sign to say they’d read it) ‘Don’t climb on the desks to change the light bulb…’


Maybe and we might see some changes to this sort of ruling in the future, but don’t hold your breath…

There you are: you can’t sue me now for holding your breath too long.  I’ve explicitly told you not to.

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