John Woodhouse: Deciding what you can sneak home from work? It really isn't as easy as (apple) pie
MOST jobs come with the occasional perk. Window-cleaners get to see householders in states of undress. Traffic wardens witness grown men crying. And MPs get a discount from the dominatrix.
For most of us, though, the main perk is taking stuff home. I, for instance, haven't purchased a biro since 1993.
On the other hand I accept that driving off with that desk, swivel chair, laptop and secretary did probably qualify as a disciplinary offence.
To my mind, taking things home is an established British working practice. You may well be reading this while sipping a cuppa from a piece of reject china from Wedgwood. Or on a moderately blemished toilet from Twyfords. The only jobs where you don't want to be taking anything home are sewage operative and undertaker.
There's a British tradition that bosses have turned a blind eye. Mainly in the hope they'll be treated similarly sympathetically when the staff discover they themselves have been rifling the pension fund. There's been much discussion, then, over the case of the Little Chef supervisor dismissed from the chain's Talke eaterie after taking home a Kentish Bramley Apple Pie worth £3.99. In a landmark ruling, of a significance matched only by the High Court's decision on euthanasia, a tribunal judge declared: "She should not have taken the apple pie away."
Although whether she wanted it for eating or, as I prefer with the Kentish Bramley, filling the wing of a car, wasn't clear.
Food outlets are, of course, a blurred area. On the one hand it seems reasonable enough for staff to tuck into the occasional morsel.
On the other hand you can't have truckers going hungry because someone's had three slap-up grills while doing the washing-up.
I'll put my hands up and admit I've got form here. As a teenager I worked in a WHSmith-style establishment which had a truly magnificent subterranean stockroom packed full of sweet and sickly goodies.
I spent a sizeable amount of my employment down there, shovelling endless chocolate bars and sweets down my face and then secreting the wrappers in the ceiling.
Of course, this sort of behaviour builds up a thirst. But how do you open a litre bottle of Barr lemonade and slurp half of it without it being obvious? Simple, open 15 and have a small slurp out of each one.
A similar problem appeared on last year's maths GCSE.
I'm not proud of this behaviour. Well, not much. But the store seemed to survive intact and, anyway, I made up the profits when up on the shop floor by charging pensioners six pence for the free wafer in their ice-cream.
Some, the manager for instance, especially when he noticed that Easter egg missing, would see this as thieving. I, however, thought of it more as 'workplace interaction'.
Two-hundred Benson and Hedges would be unreasonable. A Twix here and there doesn't hurt anyone. Although, during the Easter egg investigation, I did briefly consider making a new life in Brazil.
Pie-gate, as the Little Chef incident has come to be known, is, of course, a little different.
Little Chef allows staff to eat food on the premises but forbids them to take it home.
Quite why this is I'm unsure.
Although it's probably a good job – it'd mess your car up no end to have a full English breakfast rolling around the passenger seat.
Workplace perks really are a legal hinterland. My advice if you're confused as to what you can take home and what you can't, would be to ask a senior colleague – visiting hours are between 3 and 4 pm at Strangeways.