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So we’ve all heard the news by now – Jeremy Clarkson has been involved in a ‘fracas’ with a producer at the BBC resulting in his suspension from work.

OK, so he’s quite a big personality and the BBC is a fairly unique organisation, but what can a small business do when – and we hope it never does – an employee assaults a colleague?

1. Investigate quickly and calmly

Do this as quickly as possible, it’s important to establish the facts whilst the situation is still fresh in everyone’s minds. But be thorough, and do it fairly and properly, don’t just take at face value what everyone tells you – but also don’t just assume you know the full story, or that one person is in the wrong.  Get written statements from your employees whilst investigating, so that you have a record of the ‘facts’.

2. Suspend one or more employees whilst you investigate

Where an allegation is made against an employee the first thing to do is to consider whether you need to suspend that employee whilst you investigate.  In some cases it may be useful to suspend both parties until you have a clearer view of what happened. After all, you don’t want it to happen again! If the incident was in public, in front of customers or clients, suspension should also allow you to minimise any fallout unless of course you are dealing with Jeremy Clarkson!

If it is fairly evident that one person attacked another though, you need only suspend that employee. Just be clear that it is a suspension and not a disciplinary action, and that you need to have the space to carry out a proper investigation unhindered.

3. Decide whether to take disciplinary action

Once you have completed your investigation, you’ll need to think about whether to take disciplinary action.  You should have a disciplinary policy already in place which will help you decide.

If you decide disciplinary action is necessary, invite the employee to a meeting, giving them all the evidence you have, including witness statements, before this meeting takes place.

4. Consider any mitigating circumstances

Consider in the course of your investigation whether there are is any mitigating circumstances. Obviously there is never an excuse for violence in any form in the workplace (unless you work at a boxing gym perhaps…), but it may be worth taking into account any reasons why they acted in the way they did, for example was there provocation or a history between the parties that fuelled the incident.

5. Communicate your decision to the employee and give them a right of appeal

Violence of any form at work is likely to amount to gross misconduct, and if this is your finding then you would be able to dismissal the employee without notice. But don’t forget whenever you take the decision to terminate someone’s employment you should give them the right of appeal.

The BBC has much more to think about than just this, with a potential cancellation of this series of Top Gear in the works, but if you’re a smaller employer you probably won’t have that on your mind and hopefully won’t have the publicity and pressure of an online petition calling for your employee’s reinstatement!  If you follow these steps, and carry out each one within the bounds of your company policy, it should be fairly simple to deal with – if a bit stressful!

Don’t have a company policy for disciplinary or suspensions? Why not try a Free Trial of citrusHR, which includes a full set of employment policies in our online Staff Handbook.

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