12 employees sacked and further 12 given final warning as contractor toughens stance on behaviour

Twelve people have been sacked by Laing O’Rourke for forwarding an email containing an inappropriate image around the business.

The offending email was sent by a Laing O’Rourke employee based in the North to colleagues. A further 12 employees were placed on a final warning by the contractor following a disciplinary procedure.

The nature of the image was unclear as Building went to press. However, the move marks the latest step in Laing O’Rourke’s increasingly tough ethical and behavioural policy.

The company has attracted attention in the past for its zero tolerance drugs policy.

In 2006, one in 10 workers of 1,500 subjected to random drug testing were sacked after failing the test; 124 were subsequently sacked for using cannabis, 41 for cocaine and 28 for using both.

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, said businesses were right to take a strong line on inappropriate behaviour.

“Sending out inappropriate images is never a good thing in the workplace, especially in construction which has a difficult reputation for its macho image.

“Any behaviour that makes people feel uncomfortable at work is something we need to take seriously.”

The number of staff sacked is high for an incident of this nature, although punishment across other industries for similar offences has been increasing.

In 2009, 12 staff at Nottingham County council were disciplined for having “highly inappropriate” images on their computers after managers instigated a sweep of all its machines.

Jill Andrew, employment partner at law firm Marriott Harrison, said: “If you send round sexually explicit images […] you may be dismissed for breach of the Sexual Discrimination Act. All email traffic of an inappropriate nature is covered, including people who forward material on.”

Laing O’Rourke declined to comment.