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In Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets the Supreme Court confirmed that Morrisons were responsible for an attack on a customer, by an employee, despite the circumstances.

Mr Mohamud was a customer at a Morrisons petrol station where, following a simple request, he was met with abuse. He left the premises and walked to his vehicle where he was pursued and seriously assaulted by the petrol assistant. The attack was probably motivated by cultural differences but the Supreme Court decided this was irrelevant.

The implications for employers are significant:

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

Where employees have access to children and vulnerable adults the enable employers to have access to criminal records and to make decisions accordingly. This is an area familiar to such employers.

Some criminal convictions can be taken into account during recruitment

In other circumstances, most criminal convictions are “spent” meaning that they cannot be taken into account in employment decisions. Enquiries cannot be made about them nor need an applicant disclose them. But not all convictions are spent and employers can take those into account. In the light of the Morrison case, this might happen more often, but

There is another way

The CIPD and NACRO has produced a guide to employing ex-offenders that may be helpful in making appropriate decisions. Instances such as the Morrison case are rare and often grab the headlines. Companies, such as Timpsons, deliberately consider ex-offenders and employ many of them. This doesn’t grab the headlines particularly.

Take grievances seriously

In the tragic case where, at Sainsburys, one employee killed another employee, the employer was criticised for not taking prompt action in the light of a grievance.

Address issues

It is tempting to avoid confrontation, especially with an aggressive employee. If you are intimidated then seek support and advice.

Check your policies

Do you have a Grievance Procedure, an (anti) Harassment and Bullying policy, and an Equal Opportunity policy? Do you know whether or not your employees are aware of them, have they read them?

Train employees in Equal Opportunities

You cannot safely defend discrimination by one employee on another (or on clients or customers) unless you have trained employees in what equal opportunity means. Carrying out such training will help to alert you to differences and culture and attitude that may be circulating in your organisation.

Take advice

Employer Solutions has experience in all these areas.