Jeremy Clarkson was involved in what was initially described as a ‘fracas’ but the outcome of the BBC investigation suggests that a blow was struck and that the other person involved was also subjected to persistent verbal abuse. The BBC decided not to renew Jeremy Clarkson's contract.
Does this mean that in every case of physical violence in the workplace dismissal is the inevitable outcome?
The answer is not necessarily.
An employer can dismiss an employee for physical violence perpetrated on another employee, without that dismissal being unfair, provided it considers any mitigating circumstances and considers whether dismissal is in fact the correct measure to be taken.
Mitigation can be in respect of the incident complained of or in respect of the employee (or both).
As to the incident itself the employer should establish the full circumstances. There may have for example been provocation, self-defence or harassment. The extent of the violence involved will also be relevant.
Matters which affect the employee will need to be considered by the employer. If the incident seems out of character, what caused it to happen? Other factors such as contrition, whether there is a likelihood of it happening again the employee’s state of health physical and mental, may also be relevant.
Once all these factors are taken into account the employer can make a decision whether to dismiss.
Without a full consideration of all matters, the dismissal could well be determined as being unfair.
The victim’s position should also be considered. If the assailant is not to be dismissed s/he may have to be moved away from the victim within the workplace, to avoid any repetition.
It may of course be the case that the employer or the victim may wish to report the matter to the police.
Fortunately violence in the workplace is, relatively speaking, uncommon but if it occurs employers should follow appropriate procedures and not indulge in a knee jerk reaction which might result in their being on the wrong side of an Employment Tribunal decision.