My daughter came home from school two days ago and told me that killer clowns were on the loose. Having calmed her down, I started thinking: what would happen if one of my clients made the call to me to say, "I have an employee who has been arrested for dressing up as a clown, what should I do?"
The "killer clown" craze has been inspired by pranks in the United States aimed at scaring children and adults alike. It is not just dressing up as a clown, individuals are going out to purposefully scare others. A number of arrests have been made in the UK and police are warning Jersey residents that if you see a “killer clown” or those taking the Halloween festivities too far (like egging properties) you should report the incident. Further, if you join in with these "pranks", you could be committing a criminal offence and may be arrested.
The general steps an employer should take if an employee is arrested, whether for drink driving, "clowning around" or serious sexual assault, are:
- Do not panic! Do not make any rash decisions, like terminating employment, just to get them "out of your hair";
- Listen to your employee: conduct a reasonable investigation. Maybe they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe it was more serious? You need to gather as much information as possible about the arrest, circumstances, possible charges, and the employee’s immediate future. If the employee is in custody, then consider how you will be able too conduct a reasonable investigation, and remember that being in custody is not an automatic reason to dismiss an employee;
- Question suspension: consider whether it is appropriate to suspend the employee while the investigations are ongoing. This will depend on the allegation and the type of work the employee does. You should confirm the terms of the suspension in writing and review these at regular intervals. Remember, a suspension does not mean they must not come to work. You may have the ability under your policies to suspend for certain areas of work only;
- Make a decision: once the investigation is completed is there a case to answer and, if so, invite your employee to a disciplinary hearing. Remember, the employee may be in custody so special arrangements may need to be made for the meeting to be conducted.
We work with clients to ensure that they take all the necessary steps to remain compliant with both the employment law and the codes of practice when dealing with a disciplinary process. We provide clients with the relevant paperwork, the right advice and assist with the practicalities and commercial constraints within which our client works.
If you are not a client yet, we can help you, too, by ensuring your policies and procedures are up to date. Ideally, in a case such as an employee being arrested, giving you the express right to dismiss where the employee is convicted of a criminal offence.
So, consider your role in society by reporting these "killer clowns" for the sake of my 7 year old and, as an employer, do the right thing by your employees by taking the right advice.