Comment: Clarkson should not be given preferential treatment, despite public pressure

Darryll Thomas Main

Following the suspension of Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear, Darryll Thomas, employment law expert at law firm The Wilkes Partnership, comments:

“From an employment law perspective, the allegations made against Jeremy Clarkson are very serious, one which if proven would certainly amount to gross misconduct. In any normal employment situation I would expect the employee/contractor to be suspended, an investigation to take place, followed by a disciplinary hearing if the investigation throws up a case to answer. If it was proven that Clarkson had struck a colleague, as is alleged, in these circumstances I would expect summary dismissal or immediate termination of his service contract. This is particularly so, given his previous high profile indiscretions, plus the fact that it has been reported he was told last year he was on a final warning following allegations of racial comments.

“Even if these had not happened, assaulting a colleague is of such a serious nature that it is stand-alone basis for dismissal.

“Despite the fact there is a public petition to reinstate Clarkson, currently with over 400,000 signatures, all employers have a duty of care to their employees, which in this case would be the assaulted producer. The producer is entitled to a safe working environment and could argue that if Clarkson was left unpunished by this then the BBC have breached his employment contract, entitling him to resign and claim constructive dismissal. There is also clear caselaw that employers should not consider third party pressure and demands when making a decision relating to matters such as this.

“Reinstating Clarkson before an investigation has taken place could set a dangerous precedent across the corporation if a matter of this high profile goes unpunished, regardless of the fact that Top Gear is one of the BBC’s most successful programmes. Given its standing as a world-famous public sector organisation, the BBC should be setting at the very least a basic standard example.”

For further information or to discuss any employment law issues, please contact Darryll Thomas on 0121 733 8000 or email dthomas@wilkes.co.uk.