Mr Hocus Pocus facing spell on the dole

If you must work as a children's entertainer when you're signed off sick, check HR isn't in the audience...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Peter Hopkins has been sacked from his job as a resource and planning manager for Legal & General, after one of the HR team discovered him performing magic tricks as ‘friendly magician’ Mr Hocus Pocus – when he was supposed to be on sick leave for a stress-related illness. 

Hopkins had been off sick for six months when he was spotted performing his magic act at a children’s christening party, and L&G soon realised that the website advertising his services had been in operation throughout this period. Worst still, it wasn’t even his first trick – he’d already been reprimanded for doing a show back in 2004 when he was supposed to be off with the flu.

Hopkins then tried to pull a rabbit out of a hat by suing his erstwhile employer for breach of contract. He told an employment tribunal that his doctor had encouraged him to do the magic shows, on the grounds that ‘it would help me back to health by overcoming the stress-related illness’. He also claimed that it was ridiculous to suggest he’d been taking paid employment, since he’d only accepted £20 to cover his expenses rather than his usual £140 fee. Oh, and he’d been about to go to back to work anyway. Honest.

Not surprisingly, the tribunal ruled against him – so his hopes of getting his job back have gone up in a puff of smoke. Apparently Hopkins is now planning to retire Mr Hocus Pocus for the time being, while he looks for another role.

But we reckon he probably shouldn’t hang up his big pointy hat just yet. This little episode has given him the kind of publicity that most jobbing magicians can only dream of. And after this little stunt, performing conjuring tricks for kids is probably the only sense in which he’s likely to have a magical career...

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