The conviction of disgraced footballer Adam Johnson for child sex offences sparked much debate. Among the issues widely discussed on TV and radio stations was whether or not Sunderland Football Club should have allowed Johnson to continue to play and pick up his reported £60,000 a week wages after he was arrested and charged.
According to reports the club knew the detail of the allegations within hours of his arrest, but Johnson protested his innocence.
However, Johnson pleaded guilty to one offence prior to the start of the trial at Bradford crown court, and was subsequently sacked by the North East club.
The arrest of an employee, who is later charged with an offence, is something many employers have to deal with.
If a member of staff is charged with a criminal offence this is not normally in itself reason for automatic dismissal or disciplinary action.
Consideration should be given to what impact the charge has on the employee’s suitability to do the job and their relationship with the company, work colleagues and customers.
If the alleged offence has a direct effect on the employee’s work – for example a driver charged with dangerous driving - an employer may consider taking disciplinary action up to, and including, dismissal.
The facts should be investigated as much as possible, and carefully considered before a decision is taken to instigate disciplinary action.
If it is established that prompt action is required the employer is not obliged to await the outcome of a court case before taking fair and reasonable action.
Although the police will be involved they should not be asked to carry out any investigation on behalf of the employer.
When an employee is charged and remanded in custody, it is reasonable to consider the needs of the business and whether or not it is practical to keep the individual’s position open.
In the circumstances it is important to gather as many facts as possible and to follow a fair procedure before terminating the contract. It may be appropriate to allow the employee to appoint a representative to attend any meeting on their behalf or make written submissions before a decision is made.
If a member of staff facing criminal charges refuses or is unable to cooperate with the disciplinary investigations, this should not deter an employer from taking action. The employee should be advised in writing that unless further information is provided; a disciplinary decision will be taken on the basis of the information available and could result in dismissal.