14 December 2017

Merry Christmas! Let’s all watch ‘Harassment – I mean Love – Actually’

4:49pm

It’s Christmas time and in honour of the TV execs wheeling out the old favourites I am wheeling out my Love Actually blog, previously prepared in light of the Comic Relief sequel.

Inexplicably Love Actually is many people’s favourite Christmas Movie.  I shall just assume these people have either never seen Elf or are of the opinion that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie so they believe it doesn’t count (NB for the record these people are wrong, Christmas only starts when Hans Gruber enters the Nakatomi Building).

However, despite me being far from keen on Love Actually, as it is so well known and widely seen let’s remove the movie gloss, put an employment lawyer’s hat on and apply some HR principles to some of the movies key storylines (spoiler – the outcomes would be very, very different in real life).

Storyline A: Martine McCutcheon and Hugh Grant (David/Natalie).

Martine McCutcheon is the tea lady to Hugh Grant’s Prime Minster.  Hugh Grant has a crush on her and when he catches her kissing American President Billy Bob Thornton he gets her transferred to another Department because he can’t handle continuing to be around her.

According to Love Actually: Of course it’s all the woman’s fault!  Bad Martine, serving tea and leading Hugh on.  She must send Hugh a Christmas card with an apology for her blameless behaviour.  Martine’s apology motivates Hugh to make a grand gesture and declaration of love but no apology whatsoever for his frankly awful behaviour.  Inexplicably they fall in love and everyone pokes fun at Martine’s weight despite her appearing to be comfortably within the recommended Body Mass Index range.

According to Real Life Actually: Hugh Grant’s conduct would amount to unlawful sex harassment under the Equality Act as he has subjected Martine to less favourable treatment as a result of her submitting to Billy-Bob’s advances.  Rather than sending a Christmas card Martine should submit a grievance about Hugh’s inappropriate and unfair sanction which should result in him being disciplined.  If Hugh subsequently subjects Martine to detrimental treatment because she made a complaint about him that too would be unlawful under the Equality Act as it is victimisation.  They won’t fall in love, but that’s a lucky escape for Martine as why would she want to be with someone who abused his power over her because he got jealous.

Storyline B: Bill Nighy and Gregor Fisher (Billy Mack/Joe)

Bill Nighy is a pop star who is managed by Joe.  He is recording a Christmas song just 5 weeks before Christmas.

According to Love Actually: Recording a Christmas song with only 5 weeks to go to Christmas is apparently absolutely fine even though this movie was made in 2003 when CDs had to be manufactured, artwork produced, a video shot and people had to make the effort to go to a shop to buy the single rather than just go on iTunes or Spotify. However, the song reaches Christmas Number 1 regardless.

According to Real Life Actually: Clearly Bill Nighy has to consider sacking Joe.  As a manager he’s incompetent and potentially negligent; he hasn’t left sufficient time to produce the song, manufacture the CDs, record and edit the music video nor secure media bookings for promotion.  This should have been done months ago!  Didn’t Slade record Merry Christmas in the summertime?

How Bill goes about addressing Joe’s shortcomings will depend on Joe’s employee status as it is unclear whether he is an employee or self-employed.  If he is an employee and has more than two years’ service Bill should take legal advice to ensure that fair procedures are followed which will reduce the risk of Joe taking him to an Employment Tribunal for Unfair Dismissal.

Storyline C: Lucia Moniz and Colin Firth (Aurelia/Jamie)

Colin is a writer who hires Lucia as his cleaner whilst abroad writing his latest book.  They do not speak one another’s language.  Despite only being one man and surely with limited luggage, Colin apparently creates so much mess that Lucia has to attend the house every single day to clean up after him.  It is not explained why Colin is incapable of cleaning; why he takes the time to drive Lucia home when that task surely takes longer than the short time it would take for him to just clean up after himself; or (and this one really bothers me) why he uses a typewriter in the 21st century.  One day the pages of the book Colin is writing on his typewriter get blown into the lake (could have all been avoided if he had used a computer and backed up his files) and Lucia unnecessarily bravely strips down to her underwear to retrieve them while he watches on.

According to Love Actually: Oddly no one accuses Colin of being spectacularly unhelpful or inappropriate and instead this will result in marriage and we shall make fun of Lucia’s ‘fat’ sister along the way (doesn’t this movie just love to laugh at woman above a size 10, they are clearly hilarious objects)!

According to Real Life Actually: If UK law applied and Lucia felt uncomfortable about the way Colin was looking at her she too could consider making a grievance.  Further, it is unclear if Colin gave Lucia a contract of employment or if she is an agency worker.  It is a requirement that all employees are provided with a written statement of employment within two months of commencing work.  Even if working on a short term fixed contract, as it appears Lucia is doing, it is helpful for the parties to record the agreed terms in writing to avoid issues in the future or upon termination.     

 Storyline D: Keira Knightley and Andrew Lincoln (Juliet/Mark)

Andrew Lincoln is in love with Keira Knightley but nothing can come of it as she married his best friend (at an excruciatingly cheesy wedding).  He makes creepy videos of her in extreme close up and turns up at her doorstep with cue cards declaring his love for her.

According to Love Actually: Andrew Lincoln’s stalker tendencies are actually adorable and he deserves a kiss from Keira.

According to Real Life Actually: There is nothing employment law related on this one but RUN KEIRA, RUN FOR THE HILLS! 

Written by Tess Barrett