Jeremy Clarkson’s sacking by the BBC this week has caused a divide in public opinion. Did Director General Tony Hall act correctly when he sacked one of the BBC’s most successful presenters or was he left with no other option? Public opinion is one thing, but Tony Hall will have had to consider the duty of care the BBC owes to its staff and the BBC’s internal procedures for dealing with such issues. Employers are often faced with a similar question when a member of staff ‘crosses a line’ as Tony Hall described Mr Clarkson’s alleged attack on a work colleague. Employers have a duty of care towards staff and if action is required to be taken as a result of misconduct, employers have to navigate a range of employment regulations to ensure a fair procedure is followed and to avoid potential litigation. Jeremy Clarkson is likely to have been self-employed and as such it appears the BBC has followed its internal procedures and confirmed that the popular TV host’s contract would not be renewed. Many businesses have to deal with disciplinary issues regarding their employees – the procedures for dealing with employee misconduct issues can be more complex than when dealing with self-employed individuals, as employees are afforded additional employment law protection. We’ve considered some top tips on how to deal with employee disciplinary issues in the workplace.
Follow a road map – once you become aware of a disciplinary issue, take some time to prepare your approach. Familiarise yourself with your company disciplinary policies and follow them. Refer to the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. Consider whether there have been any similar cases in the past whereby a precedent has been set. Consider who is in the driving seat – Designate roles within the process at the outset so that the right people are involved at each stage to conduct investigations, hearings and appeals. Ideally, to ensure impartiality, you should have a different senior member of staff conduct each stage in the process. Don’t stall – it’s essential that disciplinary issues are dealt with promptly. This is particularly the case when you are dealing with a potential gross misconduct issue. Consider whether suspension of the employee is necessary. Be aware of your reaction times – a disciplinary process can take many twists and turns. New information or evidence may come to light at any point in the process. Make sure you react to new information and be prepared to conduct further investigations if necessary, before moving onto the next stage in the process. Complete a log book – you should record all stages in the process and all evidence that you have relied upon should be documented. If the case did result in an Employment Tribunal claim being made against your company you will need to demonstrate that a decision to dismiss was fair. Often Employment Tribunal cases will not be heard until over a year after the event. Memories fade and witnesses may have left the business. Consider documenting the decision making process and outline what factors impacted the decision to dismiss. Get underneath the bonnet – Don’t pre judge the case. Listen impartially to the employee and any witnesses. Fully consider the factual evidence before you prior to making a decision. An Employment Tribunal could deem a dismissal to be unfair if they determine that the dismissal was pre-determined. The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures has recently been revised. You can see a copy of the revised version here.