It has recently been reported that, following an alleged ‘unprovoked physical and verbal attack’, Jeremy Clarkson’s contract will not be renewed this year by the BBC.
Employers faced with a situation where one employee is alleged to have assaulted or harassed another employee should be careful as both employees could have employment rights that could be enforced. Below are some practical steps for employers and employees who find themselves in a similar situation.
1. What is acceptable?
All employers should provide staff with employment handbooks, including policies on misconduct and harassment. Policies should be applied consistently and fairly and clearly set out what constitutes acceptable behaviour and what does not. In this case, the BBC’s internal investigator Ken MacQuarrie was quoted after concluding his internal investigation as saying that ‘There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.’
Once an employer has created its documentation, steps should be taken to ensure that all employment contracts, policies and related documents are kept under review to ensure they comply with the law.
Employers often find it useful to provide their staff with training on equal opportunities and harassment. This may help managers to avoid difficulties like making inappropriate remarks or questions. It can also help employees and managers to recognise and deal with harassment at an early stage and, as a result, reduce the need for pursuing formal disciplinary or employment tribunal proceedings.
Employers should have clear procedures for staff to raise concerns and complaints, and procedures for dealing with those complaints. All procedures should comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures but also reflect the particular circumstances that are relevant to the workplace of the employer.
4. Discipline and Termination
If serious allegations, such as assault or discrimination, are made, there should be procedures in place to ensure that this is dealt with through appropriate disciplinary measures.
Employers should investigate any allegations of this nature thoroughly. This may include, for example, holding an investigatory interview with the employee and relevant witnesses, as well as a hearing once all of the evidence is available.
Employees should make every effort to attend the meetings they are invited to and be able to put forward their side of the story before the employer comes to a final decision. Both employers and employees would be advised to keep full written records, including minutes of investigatory meetings and disciplinary decisions.
If an employer does decide to take disciplinary action against an employee they should tell the employee promptly and give full reasons for their decision. If an employee disagrees with the decision of their employer to discipline or dismiss them they should be able to submit a written appeal against the decision and set out the reasons why they disagree.
Employees should take advice as soon as possible on the time limits that they may have to bring a claim in an employment tribunal if their appeal is not successful or if the employer fails to deal with this promptly.
If you have questions about harassment, workplace disputes or any other employment issues, please contact Shohaab Dar on firstname.lastname@example.org.