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What to do when your company’s Wayne Rooney messes up

First Sutton's Wayne Shaw and now Everton star Wayne Rooney – aside from the shared first name, they've also been slapped with "gross misconduct."
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Part of “letting staff get on with it” is grounded by the belief that they’ll act professionally, with the company in mind. The words “we’re all human” are often forgotten though. Staff will make mistakes, and they’ll occasionally provide media fuel – a case in point being Wayne Rooney.

Wayne Rooney was reportedly arrested for drunk driving. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was caught behind the wheel with a woman other than his wife. It’s a potent mix of scandal that Eric Schiffer, a celebrity brand expert, likened to “an exploding ball filled with gunpowder” when talking to IBTimes.

But while many talk about the effect it has on his career and personal brand, it goes without saying that it has consequences for Everton as well. In the case of Tiger Woods, when he was found cheating on his wife, companies instantly disassociated with him, taking back sponsorship deals. It’s more complicated when that person is in your employ.

The incident with Sutton reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw, after which he handed in his resignation, comes to mind. It seemed numerous people had placed money on him eating pie during the FA Cup’s Sutton vs Arsenal match. He did just, and a lucky few scored big-time.

Employment law was brought into the fold, however, when it became apparent that he’d known of the betting odds before the match took place. In the business world, his actions would have been considered gross misconduct – a term now used to define the actions of Wayne Rooney. Even Laura Simpson, the woman he spent the night with, is under corporate scrutiny.

Essentially, it’s no surprise Everton manager Ronald Koeman was “very disappointed,” claiming that the athlete would “be dealt with internally at the appropriate time”.

The need for action was echoed by Enrique Garcia, ELAS’ employment law consultant: “It is important to act appropriately should you receive reports or evidence that one of your employees messed up. This could be as a result of something that happened on the job, on social media or even outside of work.”

Depending on the mess and the resultant consequences, you could issue a warning. Having a candid talk can ensure such matters don’t happen again. Maybe it’s a good idea to teach staff about brand reputation – and what’s expected of them.

Sometimes you have no choice but to let them go though – especially if the damage is brutal. There a are few factors to take into account here, as was explained by Garcia.

“When an employee has less than two years service, or one year in Northern Ireland, firing them should be relatively easy. They cannot claim unfair dismissal, so as long as the employer is not acting against a protected reason – whistle-blowing or discrimination – then there is little chance of repercussion.”

When a member of staff has been under your employ for over two years, removing them from the team becomes a little harder. Remember those reports Garcia suggested filing away for safekeeping? They’ll help you prove the dismissal is fair, and that the offence was serious.

“It provides for a fair procedure and ensures the outcome is reasonable in all the circumstances,” Garcia added. “Where an employee acts in a particular way that generates press interest and where the press are disrupting the company business and the actions of the employee have caused this, depending on the facts, a dismissal may be justified.”

Wayne Rooney has a chance at possibly keeping his role. Simpson, on the other hand, has just started a new job, the media suggested. She would have little grounds for protest if her employer decided to take action.

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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