The recent incidents of footballers failing drugs tests raises the issue of if and when behaviour outside work amounts to misconduct.

It is well established that employee’s actions outside the workplace can amount to misconduct, providing there is a clear link between that behaviour and their company and their role within it.

For example, this could include:

  • Behaviour which could bring the company into disrepute.
  • Actions outside work which are linked to work, for example, bad behaviour at a workplace function.
  • Conduct which is incompatible with the role carried out by the employee. For example, a case involving dishonesty and theft outside work or a professional sports person taking illegal drugs.

Before a kneejerk reaction, employers should investigate and consider if such behaviour has an impact on the employment relationship.

An employee was found to be fairly dismissed for bringing his employer into disrepute for attacking a police officer. The key point was that his actions damaged the company’s reputation because the incident was reported in the newspapers with reference to the employer.

On the other hand, an employee dismissed due to an isolated incident of violent behaviour brought about by alcohol at a work related function, when the employer had provided a free bar ,was found to have been unfairly dismissed.

Conduct away from the workplace when off duty which has no bearing on employment is unlikely to justify any formal disciplinary action.

As with any disciplinary action, the matter should be thoroughly investigated and procedure followed as outlined in the contract/staff handbook.

It is always advisable to seek professional help in this difficult area of employment law.

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When employees get banged up … what are your options?

Richard Jones

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