London Riots: bringing the firm into disrepute

Friday, August 12th, 2011 - Employment Law, tutorial


London Riots: bringing the firm into disrepute

Croydon Riots - two days later
Creative Commons License photo credit: Peter G Trimming

The recent London Riots, and the further acts of looting and criminality in other UK city locations, have brought forward many questions about our present UK Society:

  • The young are disaffected: half of the people arrested so far are over the age of 18
  • The have nots have been down trodden: the prosecuted so far include a Teaching Assistant, and the daughter of a millionaire
  • Its ethnic tensions: true, the number arrested and charged so far is around20% non-UK white, but considering that these were inner city disturbances where non-white/non-British residents would typically represent upto 50% of the local community, that’s low

So, it seems from a very poorly PR handled shooting by the Metropolitan Police – where have we heard that one before, possibly the phone hacking affair – the result was a mass out break of theft and violence. As a white guy from the countrified west of England, I’ll save the moral judgement on these people for others: I love both Nikki Pilkington and Bill Boorman‘s views on these acts of theft and violence, both successful business people born into challenging personal and social circumstances.

Secondly, this is a blog about CV Writing, Job Application and Employment; and its still those issues that I want to keep focusing on today. So, in light of the statistics of those arrested/prosecuted mainly being employed, I wonder how many have read the clause entitled Bringing the firm into disrepute in their contract of employment?

Modern contracts of employment generally contain express provisions allowing employers to terminate an employee should their conduct outside work bring the employer into disrepute. What does this cover? Well, its the counter clause to the internal indisciplined behaviour clause, where an employee might cause disruption to the firm or its employee’s, but covering your activity outside the organisation. This can cover both in work activity where you deal with people and organisations outside the firm, as well as out of work activity, ie: your leisure time.

This is one of those areas of law where a clear line of what is OK and what is not are still developing, and are very much employer understanding and guidance lead on one side; countered by the right to a private life as guarded by the European law of Human Rights. But what is clear, is that should your activity result in a criminal prosecution and conviction, then that activity can breach an employment contract clause of bringing the firm into disrepute.

If any employer considers that you have made any breach of your contract of employment, then it needs to follow its owned laid out disciplinary procedures, and inform you within a defined time scale, followed up in writing. Subject to the seriousness of the complaint, it can then decide to suspend you, either on full or reduced pay, as outlined in its own disciplinary procedures. There then needs to be an investigation, and evidence provided to you before a disciplinary meeting is held. At this meeting the full facts need to be considered, and you have a right to be heard, probably by submitting a written statement and further verbal submissions. The disciplinary panel will then either make its decision on that day or within an agreed time scale, and the employee has the right of appeal.

Two recent cases show the difference that employee approach and attitude can make to interpretation of the bringing the firm into disrepute clause:

  • An airline employee was found to have a part-time leisure job as a pornographic actress. Brought to the attention of the low-cost airline by the media, the firm issued a PR statement stating that what its employees did in their own time was their own business
  • A secondary school  teacher had posed for some glamour shots, which were later published in a lads mag. Brought to the attention of the local Education Authority by the media, the school brought about disciplinary procedures under the bringing the firm into disrepute clause. The teacher was found to have breached the clause, and disciplined internally, but not dismissed. The panel concluded that due to her position of trust and employment, the photographs were inappropriate for publication. However they noted as the photographs were non-pornographic in nature, dismissal was considered inappropriate

There can also be differences internally in employer attitude. High profile media and sports personalities have strict bringing the firm into disrepute clauses with both their employers and sponsors, as their media profile is key to turning attraction into buying customers for the sponsor. Chelsea FC’s John Terry and Ashley Cole both technically breached such clauses through sexual activity. But while Terry was let-off as the club considered his activity outside work hours and hence only pertaining to his private life, Cole was disciplined as he committed his sexual indiscretion during Chelsea’s tour of the United States.

So what of the convicted rioters? I am sure that the well publicised case of South London Teaching Assistant Alexis Bailey will result in a disciplinary hearing, after he admitted one charge of theft; his case has appeared in both national television and newspapers. I wish him luck, but like all those convicted as a result of their activity during the riots, I can’t see that this is good behaviour for our society.

Having been convicted by the courts, they now need to face up to the reality of their employer potentially disciplining them with bringing the firm into disrepute.

Good Luck!

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3 Responses to “London Riots: bringing the firm into disrepute”

  1. Nesset Says:

    So now with the introduction of Clive Goodman’s explosive letter the phone hacking enquiry takes on the appearance of a major scandal, one maybe big enough to bring down not just News International (as it undoubtedly should) but the Coalition government also (as it hopefully might). It appears when Cameron said “We’re all in this together”, he really really meant it, didn’t he? They’re ALL of them crooked! LOL!

  2. Paul Darnick Says:

    Fantastic, thanks a bunch.

  3. Steve Scerbo Says:

    That is almost the best essay I have ever seen. Clear idea and expression, I have to say I very much appreciate your style – Thank You!

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