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Gotta catch ‘em all?

Pokémon Go has become a global phenomenon, and its popularity is increasing. For those who don’t know their Poké Balls from their Poké Stops, Pokémon Go is a mobile game that allows players to roam a map using their mobile phone’s GPS location and “catch” Pokémon along the way in the real world. The aim of the game is to “catch” as many Pokémon as possible. The take up and demand for this app has been so remarkable that servers have crashed due to the amount of people attempting to use it, and it is now being reported that people are naming their children after the Pokémon characters.

However as aircraft manufacturer Boeing has reportedly become the first business to ban play during working hours, should more employers follow suit?

Pokémon Go – Away!

Whilst the popularity of Pokémon Go continues to rise, playing during work time can cause problems. With all the excitement surrounding the release of the new game and the possibility of being able to catch an Eevie in the staffroom or a Squirtle on a colleague’s desk, it isn’t difficult to see how it could become a distraction and affect productivity. If employers are concerned about the use of the app during work time there are steps that can be taken.

Legal perspective

Understandably, employers want to reduce the risk of time wasting and loss of productivity, and ensure that employees are not adding to their Pokédex instead of carrying out their job roles. Whilst employers should bear in mind that the Pokémon Go craze may be short lived, it is imperative that clear and enforceable policies are in place which set out what is and is not acceptable, and that they are properly implemented amongst staff.

An appropriate IT and Communications policy should set out the boundaries in terms of personal use of the internet during work time. Some employers allow reasonable personal use; others have a complete ban on it during working hours. If reasonable use is allowed, the policy should make it clear that it should not interfere with work. It should also set out a non-exhaustive list of the types of sites which should not be accessed from their network (including Wi-fi).   In this instance, “gaming” is likely to cover off the use of Pokémon Go. Examples of these sites can also be given, which should be updated as appropriate. It should also be made clear that the personal use of mobile phones should be set to a minimum or banned completely during working hours except in the event of an emergency. A clear social media policy should also set out the position on the personal usage of social media during working hours.

A comprehensive Disciplinary Procedure should be in place which includes disciplinary rules so that employees know what is expected of them. As well as generally stating that employees should observe policies and procedures of the organisation and comply with instructions given by managers, it is also a good idea to give a specific and non-exhaustive list of examples of misconduct. In this context, excessive use of personal mobiles and/or the Internet during working time could be relied upon as an example of gross misconduct or misconduct that will be dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure.

In the event of any concerns it is also worth circulating an informal reminder that playing Pokémon Go is not allowed during working hours or on work premises, given the disruption and potential health and safety concerns that may be associated with hordes of employees wandering around in search of Pokémon.

PokéSTOP! How to deal with employees who don’t play ball

If you have made it clear that employees are not permitted to play Pokémon Go during work time, then if any employee is found to be playing, it will fall under the same category as doing anything else that they should not be doing, such as internet shopping or watching sport and should be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.

Remember that a policy is only as good as its enforcement. Employers should therefore consider disciplinary action in the event of any breaches and ensure that this is applied consistently. As well as any internal disciplinary procedure, employers should always have regard to the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures.

Issues of conduct should be raised promptly; the employee should be provided with details of the allegation(s) of misconduct in writing and invited to a disciplinary hearing at which they have the right to be accompanied; and once they have been informed of the sanction they should be given the chance to appeal. Depending on the circumstances of the case it is unlikely that a first offence of this nature would warrant dismissal.

If you would like advice on policies procedures or if any other HR queries then please do not hesitate to contact Joanne Holborn, Tom Scaife or Caroline Rayner on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

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