Behind the numbers: blogger beware

Damian Wild, AccountancyAge

But for an intelligent (educated at Eton) and well-bred (he counts David
Cameron and the Queen among his relations) chap his recent outburst about HMRC
was, well, a bit thick ­ at least as far as his wallet was concerned.

As front man for the department’s ‘Tax doesn’t have to be taxing’ advertising
campaign, you have to wonder why he said (in a BBC Radio 5 interview no less)
that he wished tax was simpler and that VAT was ‘absurdly complicated’.

The fact that he also labelled the 2005 merger of the Inland Revenue and
Customs & Excise a mistake (and the two departments too large to ‘slam
together’) was particularly extraordinary as, presumably, that sort of detailed
outburst was borne of personal experience.

HMRC, unsurprisingly, will not be using him again.

All this once again highlighted how careful employees must be in publicly
criticising their employer. Next week will serve up another reminder.

You might have forgotten about Catherine Sanderson. Her former employer, the
Paris office of Dixon Wilson, will have wanted to. Unfortunately the first novel
by the UK firm’s former secretary is published on 28 February.

Sanderson wrote a blog entitled Petite Anglaise, also the name of her novel,
detailing her Bridget Jones-style life in Paris. She was sacked after her
picture appeared on the site, though she later won a case for unfair dismissal.

It was as long ago as 2004 that a Waterstone’s employee became the first UK
worker to be dismissed because he criticised his employer on a blog. More
recently ­ and more famously ­ Emma Clarke, the voice of the London Underground,
was fired for posting spoof announcements on her own website.

‘Would passengers filling in answers on Sudokus please accept that they’re
just crosswords for the unimaginative and are not in any way more impressive
just because they contain numbers,’ was among the more choice.

With blogs, forums, Facebook and other media, the opportunities for
indiscretion are legion. And all of us will have our own opinions about the
merits of the cases I’ve listed above (for what it’s worth the only employer I
would side with is HMRC). But the onus has to be on employees to avoid saying ­
or publishing ­ anything we might regret. Hasn’t it ever been thus?

Damian Wild is editor in chief of Accountancy Age and
blogs ­ responsibly ­ at

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