Nodding off at work

21st June 2024

Nodding off at work

Nodding off at work can lead to major problems. If you nod off for a few minutes during a training session then, if you’re lucky, no-one will notice (unless you’re a loud snorer of course!). However, if your job involves driving or operating dangerous machinery, it’s a much more serious issue.

The Telegraph newspaper recently reported that a criminal barrister had been cleared of professional misconduct after she fell asleep during a remote hearing. She slept for two hours, including through her own client’s cross-examination. The judge was alerted when asking if she had any further questions, she failed to respond. Much was made in this case of the fact that the barrister fell asleep after having had a jacket potato for lunch! In the event, the Bar Standards Council accepted her explanation that the lapse in concentration had been due to medical reasons and she was cleared of professional misconduct.

Commentators have argued that this case should never have reached a professional misconduct hearing. The barrister had an unblemished record and there were clear medical factors at play. If you encounter issues with employees falling asleep at work, you need to ensure that you consider the following:

  • Whether there are any mitigating circumstances? Ill health, personal problems or wider workplace issues?
  • The nature of the employee’s role and whether health and safety was endangered as a result of the employee’s actions?
  • If employees are working in a hazardous environment, do you have a clear procedure for employees to follow if they become fatigued at work? Employees in such roles who come to you and own up to feeling tired should be supported and not reprimanded.

If in doubt, get in touch with one of our team who can help.

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