Our next football employment law crossover concerns another team in the North East, Sunderland. If you have missed the news England and Sunderland FC player, Adam Johnson, was convicted of sexual activity with an underage girl.
Whilst this rather unpleasant case is not strictly employment law related it did cause the club’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, to resign due to how the club handled the situation.
Johnson’s case caused a stir because the club knew of his arrest a full year before his conviction. Usually, unless a contractual term states otherwise, staff are under no obligation to report criminal charges to their employer, meaning the employer often will not find out unless the employee is convicted.
Our advice to employers when they become aware of an employee’s criminal conviction is to treat it as an absence issue, which bizarrely comes from a similar case involving yet another footballer!
To further clarify things there is no right to sack someone just because they have been charged or convicted of a criminal offence. However, an employer can dismiss if this will impact on their relationship with clients/staff, or, the employees ability to fulfill the role. A further point to consider is the reputational and/or commercial impact of the employee’s conviction would have on the employer.
In this case it damaged Sunderland’ image as a family club, made sponsors want to withdraw deals, made other players uncomfortable about working with him and also attracted unwanted publicity.