Ched Evans has been in the news for trying to return to his previous job as a professional footballer after serving 30 months of a 60 month prison sentence for rape.
To be fair to Mr Evans he is protesting his innocence and his case is subject to a Criminal Case Review. However, at the time this is published (09/01/15) his conviction still stands.
A talented footballer, capped by Wales, he has been unable to find employment since his release from prison. Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic have both been interested in signing him but have withdrawn contract offers when they have realised the potential impact with sponsors his employment would have.
What does the law say?
Section 5 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 exempts from being spent any sentence of imprisonment that exceeds 48 months.
Therefore, he will have to declare his sentence to any potential employers.
Those potential employers can then make a decision on whether to employ based on his ability (not in question) and the commercial impact of his employment (very much in question).
Employers are free to take into account any non-discriminatory reasons when determining whom to employ.
Commercial and reputational concerns are a very legitimate reason not to employ someone.
What does seem strange about this case is that many professional footballers have been to prison and returned to footballers following their release. Joey Barton (6 months for assault returning to a 71k a week contract), Lee Hughes (6 years for causing death by drinking and driving), Luke McCormick (7 years and 4 months for causing the deaths of 2 children whilst over the drink drive limit) and Marlon King ( Over 15 criminal convictions including theft and sexual assault) are just a few high profile examples of convicted criminals who have returned to their previous job in football.
One reason why Mr Evans is finding it difficult to return to his previous work is that unlike most of the previous examples he has yet to admit guilt (and only recently shown remorse) for his actions.
This lack of any admission or reparation as well as the highly paid job (where he will be perceived as a role model) he could return to seem to be the main reasons why over 60,000 people signed a petition against him being re-employed.
Ched Evans’ case was exceptional in that his employer did not terminate his contract when he was imprisoned.
Over the years many employers have contacted us when employees have been remanded in custody, put on trial or sent to prison.
We usually advise that you should treat it as an absence issue and non-attendance without permission is usually grounds for dismissal. Dismissal can be without notice or with notice. Either way there will not a payment for notice as the employee will be unable to work. However, accrued holiday pay will be payable.
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