EastEnders | Director sacked after workplace COVID-19 scandal

    Director sacked after workplace COVID-19 scandal

    The importance of health and safety in the workplace has been highlighted throughout the coronavirus crisis and has been a top priority for both employers and employees. 

    Despite this, it has been claimed that the director of a British TV soap opera breached COVID-19 rules and was reportedly sacked from his role as a result. 

    The Sun reported that Joe Nugent, a First Assistant Director at EastEnders, was relieved of his duties after spending two days on the set while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test which later came back positive.

    ‘He failed to tell colleagues’ 

    After developing symptoms last weekend, the director took a test but did not communicate this with co-workers, and went into work as normal on both the Monday and Tuesday. 

    It is claimed that he only admitted to having the virus later on the Tuesday when his positive result was confirmed. 

    Following this, it was reported that one cast member tested positive for COVID-19. Chiefs at the show confirmed two positive cases of the virus on set including Nugent and a cast member who has not been named. 

    Memo to staff 

    In a memo reportedly sent to staff, a show official wrote that this should ‘act as a reminder of the ongoing importance of keeping colleagues safe’. 

    It read: “You will all have heard we had an active Covid case on site. 

    “This should serve as a reminder that keeping ourselves and our colleagues safe is an ongoing situation and a shared responsibility,” the memo added. 

    Elsewhere, a source said that the director’s behaviour “infuriated everyone”.

    “He should have known better than to behave so stupidly,” they added.

    On another issue to do with COVID-19 guidelines – which saw fans praise show producers for camera trickery when watching two cast members have a socially distanced kiss – a Spokeswoman said: “EastEnders adheres to Government guidelines and enforces strict social distancing measures at all times.”

    Guidance published by Gov.uk said that anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend work, should immediately self-isolate at home and get a test.  

    COVID-19 rule-breaking staff 

    The reported incident shines a light on the importance of adhering to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines in the workplace and employees helping to keep one another safe. 

    But coming into work either with symptoms or after testing positive is not the only issue that the HR department may come up against. 

    When at work, it is possible that staff – whether intentional or not – could break the rules with regards to social distancing. 

    A previous HR Grapevine article explored what the HR function should do if an employee refuses to adhere to social distancing rules in the workplace. 

    Paul Ball, Employment Partner at Gateley Legal, said that ensuring workplaces are as safe as possible and avoid the possible risk of transmission of the virus among the workforce, is a crucial consideration for employers. 

    As such, he laid out some key considerations for the people function including making social distancing rules clear to staff members and communicating with them that failure to comply could be treated as a disciplinary issue. 

    Read more from us

    ‘Find out what happened’ 

    If it is rumoured that an employee has broken social distancing rules at work, the legal expert said HR should conduct an investigation and get to the bottom of what happened. 

    “…Consider suspending the employee pending the outcome of the investigation and potential disciplinary process. 

    “If your investigation suggests a case to answer, decide whether or not you are going to treat first-time or accidental ‘offenders’ with a lighter touch, by reminding them of their obligations but emphasising that any further breaches of the social distancing rules will be a disciplinary issue. 

    “A deliberate or repeated failure should be treated more seriously in accordance with the employer’s usual procedures,” Ball added. 

    Image credit: Copyright © 2020 BBC

    You are currently previewing this article.

    This is the last preview available to you for 30 days.

    To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.