Ilion has raised the stakes against arch rival Landis after an internal memo informed sales staff they could face the sack if caught contacting the distributor.
The leaked document, sent out on 16 February, was marked for the attention of all sales staff and included six points under the heading 'Maximising sales', written by Allan Mack, Ilion managing director.
The last point on the memo informed staff who were being contacted by ex-employees at Landis: 'Do not take any further calls, or indeed make them. Failure to do so will be construed as gross misconduct.'
A human resources expert said: 'Gross misconduct usually means that people can be sacked without notice. It is very serious.' She added: 'It can be applied to a number of situations, including theft or breach of confidence.'
Wayne Channon, chairman of Ilion, confirmed that people could lose their jobs if caught contacting Landis, adding: 'If people are instructed not to do something then they must not do it. You need discipline in a company.'
Allan Mack, Ilion UK managing director, admitted he had sent the memo and said: 'It is to get people to stop wasting time in the office.' Mack was reluctant to comment on his definition of the term gross misconduct.
He continued: 'There is a lot of ill feeling all-round due to Landis poaching staff and using tactics. It is becoming a pain.'
According to a legal source, gross misconduct can be defined as 'something that is detrimental to the company'.
However, she added it was difficult to draw the line: 'The company must prove there is a substantial risk, and this measure should be introduced via the terms and conditions of the employee contract.'
Channon said: 'I would construe gross misconduct as disobeying a direction which is reasonable and lawful within the bounds of commercial laws.'
He also stated that the distributor uses a switching system - which he claimed was similar to other companies' systems - to monitor incoming and outgoing calls.
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