Fall-out from the Brodie Clark saga – how not to deal with alleged misconduct

16 November 2011

I write this before the dust has settled following Brodie Clark’s appearance before the Home Affairs Select committee. This blog doesn’t wish to comment on who knew what or what policy was or was not in force, but the situation is a terrible example of what damage acting before investigating can do. We have been here before with politicians interfering in an employee’s employment when a high profile disaster strikes - does anyone remember Ed Balls’ ill fated meddling in the Sharon Shoesmith case?

It may be some time before we know whether Mr Clark’s actions were entirely reasonable, following a long established precedent, or if Teresa May did not and could not have known what was happening at the Border Agency. However, one thing for sure is that Mr Clark’s position should not have been made untenable through criticisms before an investigation took place. Sharon Shoesmith and Haringey Council: if a minister leans on an employer, even where the employer is in the public sector, such behaviour is likely to be entirely improper and without authority.

The Border Agency seems to have failed at the most basic principles (and no doubt its own policy) of carrying out a disciplinary process; investigate before making knee jerk reactions and do not use suspension as a disciplinary sanction when the investigation is ongoing.

With ministers themselves failing so badly and providing a perfect example of how employers should not react unreasonably, it is easy to see the attraction of the idea promoted in the Beecroft Report that the law should be changed so that employers could dismiss employee for any reason. However, Mr Beecroft’s comment about the potential harm to employees “While this is sad it is a price worth paying for all the benefits that would result from this change” may not be one with which everybody would agree.

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