Kate Brooks
Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services
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Date Published:10 Mar 2016 Last Updated:10 Apr 2021

And on that Bombshell, its time to end the Show………

Employment Law Advice

A lot of us get grumpy when hungry but unfortunately for Jeremy Clarkson this has cost Clarkson his job as Top Gear presenter.

It is reported that on 4th March 2015 having finished a day of filming in North Yorkshire Clarkson was offered a cold plate of food instead of steak and chips. This final straw for Clarkson led him to verbally and physically attack Top Gear producer, Oisin Tymon.

On 10th March 2015 Clarkson was suspended from the BBC and ultimately the decision not to renew his contract was confirmed publicly by Tony Hall (BBC director in General) on 25th March 2015.

Whilst Clarkson has a long and successful career, the support of some colleagues and millions of viewers, did the BBC ever really have a choice?

It is not clear as to how Clarkson was actually engaged by the BBC i.e. on a permanent contract or a fixed term contract.

In a situation like this when an employee has committed gross misconduct an employer must still ensure that a fair procedure is followed (this will include following Acas procedure and the employer’s own disciplinary procedure):

  1. Consider suspension – this should not be a punishment but instead a toll for investigation. Clarkson was suspended on 10th March 2015;
  2. Investigate thoroughly – in an organisation as large as the BBC this investigation should be carried out by someone other than the person chairing the disciplinary meeting. Ken MacQuarrie carried out the investigation and completed an investigation report;
  3. Let the employee have all of the allegations and investigations to consider before an investigatory meeting. This will allow the employee to defend themselves;
  4. Hold a disciplinary meeting at which the employee is give the chance to respond to the allegations.
  5. Notify the decision to the employee along with the right of appeal.

On top of a fair procedure the employer must also take into account all of the circumstances, for example:

  1. Damage to reputation internally and externally;
  2. Culture of the workplace – is bad language tolerated and commonplace?
  3. The employee’s status;
  4. Was there provocation?
  5. Did Clarkson show remorse and apologise?
  6. Were their other mitigating circumstances?
  7. Clarkson’s length of service and prior record.

In addition to the above, they must consider how they have or will treat other employees guilty of the same or similar conduct.

It has now been reported that the North Yorkshire police have asked for a copy of the BBC’s investigation report. Whilst police investigations may sometimes be relevant to an employer’s decision, there is no duty on an employer to delay a decision whilst waiting a police investigation or even take that investigation into account.

If you have an employee who is guilty of gross misconduct do not forget to follow a procedure, if you have been accused of gross misconduct make sure you raise all mitigating circumstances. For further advice please contact me at kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk.