Case law: Dismissal of employee charged with criminal offence was fair, even though the matter had not yet gone to trial
Employers faced with an employee who has been charged with a criminal offence, but who has not yet gone to trial and been found guilty, should ensure they carry out their own investigations before dismissing the employee, to avoid an unfair dismissal claim.
A longstanding employee at a hospital, who worked with vulnerable patients and had an unblemished track record, was charged with a serious sexual offence, unconnected to his work. When his employer dismissed him because of the risk of damage to its reputation, he claimed unfair dismissal.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) first said that every case involving criminal allegations against an employee was fact-specific. It went on to say that employers with an employee facing criminal charges should usually make their own investigations into the allegations and not assume that information from third parties was accurate.
In this case, the EAT said that the employee’s job meant he was in a position to carry out the sort of act he had been charged with committing outside work. It also found that it was valid to assess the risk of reputational damage to the employer in the context of recent scandals in the sector.
Overall, it ruled that the dismissal in this case was therefore fair as being ‘for some other substantial reason’ under employment law.
Employers faced with an employee who has been charged with a criminal offence, but which has not yet gone to trial, should ensure they carry out their own investigations before dismissing the employee, to avoid an unfair dismissal claim.
Case ref: Lafferty v Nuffield Health  UKEAT 0006_19_1509
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