What would you do if you discovered an employee had been convicted of a criminal offence? Often, the first instinct is to dismiss them immediately. However, this could actually get you into more trouble than your employee!
Even if the employee is sent to jail, you can’t necessarily mean you can dismiss him or her without a full investigation. A court of Law may deem it reasonable that you hold the job open for their return, if they are only on a short-term sentence, and the offence is nothing to do with work.
Discovering that one of your employees is a convicted criminal is a big concern. In these circumstances, I am often asked if they should be dismissed.
As an employer, despite the circumstances, you still need to take care not to dismiss immediately. Additionally, if a convicted employee has over two years’ service, they still have the right to claim unfair dismissal.
What about when an employee is charged with, or convicted of, a work-relatedcrime?
Along with the judiciary process being carried out, you also need to conduct your own investigation as an employer, before taking disciplinary action. You need to establish the facts of the case. The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance proceduresmakes it clear that despite the fact that an employee has been charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence, that in itself is not enough reason for disciplinary action.
Carefully consider what effect the criminal charge or conviction has on your employee’s ability to do the job, as well as their relationship with you, managers, colleagues or customers. Disciplinary action is more likely to be appropriate if the offence is work related.
Case law tells us that even though an employee is charged with an offence, this on its own does not give reasonable grounds for dismissal. You, as the employer, are under a duty to obtain sufficient information through your own investigations to form a genuine and reasonable belief that the employee is guilty of the offence before deciding to dismiss.
Can I dismiss an employee on misconduct that occurred outside the workplace?
You could dismiss an employee on the grounds of misconduct that occurred outside the workplace provided that the conduct complained of is thought likely to affect the continued employment relationship. The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures states that where an employee is charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence not related to work, this is not in itself a reason for disciplinary action.
Again, you will need to carefully consider what effect the charge or conviction has on the employee’s suitability to do the job, as well as their relationship with managers, work colleagues and customers. The types of criminal offence that are most likely to affect the employment relationship are those involving dishonesty, violence and sexual offences.
As the employer, you must establish the facts of the case and decide whether it is appropriate to commence the disciplinary procedure. The fairness of a dismissal in each case will depend on the nature of the individual’s job in relation to the type of offence.
Can I dismiss an employee because he or she is in prison?
If an employee is in prison, it may be fair for you to dismiss them because of his or her conduct, or because he or she is unable to perform the job. You will need to consider factors such as the nature of the offence, the length of the sentence, the nature of the employee’s job, the effect of the employee’s absence on the business, and the damage (if any) to your reputation.
Your employee’s conduct could potentially be a fair reason for dismissal if the offence he or she is convicted of relates to his or her job, or if your reputation is likely to be damaged by their conviction. In those cases (or anything similar), you should carry out an investigation and conduct a fair disciplinary procedure as far as possible in the employee’s absence. Once the findings are available, then you can give careful consideration and decide whether it would be reasonable to dismiss him or her.
If your employee is likely to be in prison for a long time, it may be fair to dismiss him or her on the grounds that he or she will be unable to perform the contract of employment. But you must carry out a fair procedure and act reasonably in dismissing the employee for that reason.
However, if your employee is imprisoned for a short time for an offence unrelated to work, it is likely to be reasonable that you should hold the employee’s job open until he or she returns.