A recent violent attack on police officers splashed across national news has highlighted the need for better employment practices, particularly when a staff member is at the centre of the story.
Fifth Eagle human resources specialist Kelli McDougall says many people were surprised that a female childcare worker was charged as part of the sickening incident in Melbourne where two officers were set upon by a group of people.

“While I don’t want to detract from the seriousness of the incident, a number of businesses would have been horrified to see the faces of people they trusted in their workplace in the lead story of the nightly news,” Ms McDougall says.

“One of them was a childcare worker, and I’m sure the centre she worked at would be scrambling to know what to do, particularly when their parents would have also seen it.

“There could be elements of concern for her welfare but given her role and industry, and the nature of the crime, I’m sure they would be also considering immediate termination.

“Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that, but most employers wouldn’t know their rights when they see something like this play out on national news.”

Ms McDougall says the first thing businesses need to ensure is a thorough check of employee’s backgrounds, in some cases police checks.

“It’s amazing how many companies just don’t go through the proper checks when taking on a new hire,” Ms McDougall says.

“If they did they’d potentially find out problems before they end up on the front page of the paper.

“However when they do find an employee in the media spotlight, there’s certain things to consider.”

Ms McDougall says that employers can’t simply terminate an employee, or they risk severe legal ramifications.

“Employers must never assume gross misconduct has occurred but should launch an independent investigation to establish the facts,” says Ms McDougall.

“If gross misconduct is determined, there are still various processes which must be followed; for example, it is important to offer an employee reasonable right of response to the allegations.

“Remember, the more serious the allegations are, the stronger the evidence against them must be.

“The rule of thumb for employers in these instances is don’t assume, and if in doubt seek the assistance of a qualified human resource or employment relations expert before acting.”