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Employee charged with criminal offence was fairly dismissed due to risk to employer’s reputation (EAT)

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld a tribunal’s decision that an employee was fairly dismissed for some other substantial reason given the potential reputational risk to his employer, a registered not-for-profit charity, when he was charged with a criminal offence.

The employee was a hospital theatre porter with 20 years’ unblemished service whose duties included moving anaesthetised patients to and from operating theatres. He was charged with assault with intent to rape (which had no connection to his work).

The tribunal decided that the employer had shown that the reason for dismissal was that it considered that, should the employee be convicted of the charges against him, there was a genuine risk of potential damage to its reputation. These concerns had not been frivolous or trivial but were sincerely held. The employer sought clarification from the employee about what had happened. It decided against paid suspension as the employee could not provide any information about the timing of his trial which meant that any period of suspension would be open-ended and not a proper use of charitable funds. The employer therefore decided to dismiss the employee on notice, given the potential for serious reputational damage if the employee was convicted. The EAT held that there had been no error in the tribunal’s approach.