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Stop the Press: Dealing with Workplace Problems Before They Become News

Published 16 June 2016

Employment practices in a number of high profile cases have made headlines in the past week.The separate appearances of the owner of Sports Direct and the former Chief Executive of British Home Stores (BHS) in the Commons attracted widespread publicity (1, 2, 3), as did the settlement agreement between Premier League football team Chelsea and its former team doctor (4).

Billionaire Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, was quizzed by MPs about a number of questionable working practices, and he admitted that some staff had been paid below the National Minimum Wage (5).

The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour almost all workers are entitled to (6). The current rate for workers aged 25 and above is £7.20 an hour (7), with a target of it reaching more than £9 an hour by 2020. Part-time and full-time workers should get it (8).

Darren Topp, ex chief executive of BHS, told MPs investigating the collapse of the firm that owner Dominic Chappell threatened to kill him when he questioned the transfer of £1.5m (9).

A threat to kill a colleague is not only a disciplinary matter, it can also be found to be a serious criminal offence. Any investigation into such allegations should be thorough and reasonable, should follow a fair procedure and consider evidence for and against the alleged wrongdoer.

Former Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro was due to take to witness stand at the London South Employment Tribunal when the two sides reached a settlement said to have been hammered out in a corridor. This was after Dr Carneiro, who was suing the club for constructive dismissal, reportedly turned down a settlement offer of £1.2m (4).

A settlement agreement is a legally binding agreement between the employer and the employee. Once the agreement is signed the employee will not be able to make any claims against the employer in a tribunal unless the reasons for termination have been misrepresented.

Despite the rights and wrongs of a case, the cost of going to an employment tribunal can be high and employers should always consider the financial implications.

ACAS advice is that it is always best to resolve workplace disputes as early as possible. Acas offer early conciliation to help to settle the dispute without going to court.


  1. Armstrong, Ashley. ‘Sir Philip Green to Refute Claims He Blocked BHS Rescue to Mike Ashley’. The Telegraph, 18:52.
  2. reporter, Ben King Business, and B. B. C. News. ‘Mike Ashley: Sports Direct’s Media-Shy Owner Enters Spotlight’. BBC News. Accessed 16 June 2016.
  3. ‘Sports Direct Founder Mike Ashley Admits Pay Errors - BBC News’. Accessed 16 June 2016.
  4. ‘Eva Carneiro Settles Constructive Dismissal Claim with Chelsea | Football | The Guardian’. Accessed 16 June 2016.
  5. ‘Sports Direct Founder Mike Ashley Admits Pay Errors’. BBC News. Accessed 16 June 2016.
  6. ‘The National Minimum Wage and Living Wage - GOV.UK’. Accessed 16 June 2016.
  7. ‘National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage Rates - GOV.UK’. Accessed 16 June 2016.
  8. ‘Who Gets the Minimum Wage: The National Minimum Wage and Living Wage - GOV.UK’. Accessed 16 June 2016.
  9. Ruddick, Graham. ‘Dominic Chappell Threatened to Kill Me, Says BHS Chief Executive’. The Guardian, 8 June 2016, sec. Business.

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