Hands, face, space… but not in this case!

5th July 2021


No, we are not talking about Matt Hancock. We are talking about the abhorrent behaviour by two individuals with regards to Professor Chris Whitty. If you have not seen the video, the link to the article on the BBC can be found by clicking here.

The story first broke that Professor Whitty had been accosted in a park by two individuals whom the Prime Minister labelled as “thugs”. The footage taken in St James's Park in Westminster shows the two individuals approaching Professor Whitty, before wrapping their arms around him getting him in a headlock whilst laughing at the camera. Professor Whitty can be seen to be incredibly uncomfortable, struggling to free himself and disengage from the situation. It is very evident from the footage that he was pursued and harassed. 

As with anything that goes viral, the names of these individuals have now been discovered and as quickly as the video went viral, the consequences have caught up with them. The first individual is Jonathan Chew and the second is Lewis Hughes from Romford, Essex. 

Mr Hughes, 24, has made a statement that he was sorry for “any upset” he caused. He is probably a lot sorrier that he has now lost his job as an Estate Agent, with Caplen Estates, as a result of the incident. We do hope that his demeanour showing people round the properties was a little less tactile than he displayed with Professor Whitty.


Our thoughts

At present, it is only known that Mr Hughes has lost his job with Caplen. We do not know the exact circumstances, process followed and/or reasons given. We can only speculate.  

What we do know is that the viral video was picked up by the majority of tabloids, tweeted about by various celebrities, including that of Piers Morgan who labelled it ‘disgusting’ and then of course the actions of both Hughes and Chew were condemned by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. 

This issue goes to demonstrate that organisations can discipline and even dismiss their employees for the actions they take outside of their work, including criminal offences.  Obviously, an investigation should still take place to ensure that the organisation has all the information in order to understand the situation. Some of the consideration that should be applied in these circumstances are the nature of the individual’s work and their role within the organisation. It should be noted that just because an individual is found guilty of a criminal offence does not, in itself, mean that an organisation can dismiss them from employment without conducting their own internal process.

Given the circumstances with Mr Hughes, which have been compounded by the new investigation into common assault against Professor Whitty, it is not difficult to see the argument for dismissal on the basis that he brought Caplen Estates into disrepute. It may be possible that he was dismissed for Gross Misconduct, i.e. without notice or payment in lieu of notice but at present, we do not know anything for certain.

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