The Norwich Evening News is acting to ensure members of staff work reasonable hours after a tribunal criticised working procedures.
Publisher Archant was last week cleared after former journalist tried to sue for unfair dismissal. During the hearing, claims were made of long working hours, although these claims did not form part of her case.
The tribunal agreed that former editor David Bourn was right to discipline her after she left the office without completing a story to deadline. On that occasion she had written a note saying she knew she was in for a ‘bollocking’for leaving to catch a train. The tribunal ruling stated: ‘She knew full well she should not have done it.”
The tribunal also heard that senior editors refused to endorse the reporter’s submission to the EDF energy awards in Norfolk. She had entered her investigation – which examined links between a toxic chemical and alleged high levels of throat cancer – but a BBC journalist contacted the paper claiming his own investigation cast doubt over her figures. The reporter defended her own investigation.
With regards to working hours, the judgment said there appeared to be a ‘macho ethic”. The tribunal said it was ‘firmly of the view that the newspaper needs to look urgently at procedures for recording hours of work and for treating employees properly and sensibly with regard to the hours that are put in.
‘We are concerned that no proper records are kept and no consideration appears to have been given to paying employees for extra hours”.
Acting Evening News editor Tim Williams said: ‘It was nice to be exonerated by the tribunal. However, we took note of some of their comments about the fact that we could have been perceived as being down on staff numbers. That wasn’t an intentional situation – it just happened to be the turnover at the time.
‘We have addressed that completely now and are up to our full compliment of staff.
‘We are aware that the media industry as a whole has been something where long hours have occasionally been an issue. We are very aware of that on the Evening News because working long hours is not good for staff morale.”
Archant Norfolk MD Barry Dennis added: ‘It is not our policy to make journalists work long hours.
‘However, there are occasions when it is unavoidable such as when you are trying to fill vacancies. This has happened a couple of times on the Evening News in recent years. Whenever it happens our managers do all they can to allow staff to take time off in lieu as soon as possible.”