Employers rights regarding employee conduct outside of working hours

Wednesday October 3, 2018

As we get into the full swing of Spring with increasingly warmer weather, events and festivals are filling up social schedules from coast to coast. Invitations to public events, carnivals, live sports and work socials are on the rise. And there are plenty of good reasons to be out and about enjoying the spring festivities.

With this natural increase in social gatherings sweeping the nation, it can be tempting for your employees to “overdo it” and exhaust themselves through FOMO (fear of missing out).

If it’s their spare time you may be thinking – well, they can do what they like as long as they turn up for work. But what if an employee’s conduct out of working hours impacted their ability to perform their duties? Or worse, portrayed a negative image for your business reputation. Would you know your legal rights as an employer?

Can you dismiss an employee for bad behaviour outside of work?

Depending on the behaviour and the connection to your business, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Prevention is the key. But if it’s too late, you may need to consider your options and whether dismissal is the best route.

Qantas was recently backed by the Fair Work Commission in its decision to dismiss a flight attendant after an alleged boozy binge left him unable to work. Each case will be different, and this specific incident came down to the employee’s role involving critical safety actions.

To reduce the risk of an employee jeopardising their job with your company, we advise setting a standard and communicating this through a conduct policy.

Set expectations

When it comes to the behaviour of your employees outside of working hours, it would be best to have a conduct policy in place. This sets expectations as to what will and won’t be tolerated by your business. Depending on the severity of the matter you may then need to follow disciplinary and grievance procedures, or consider dismissing the employee if gross misconduct has occurred.

Be sure to follow the correct procedures to avoid a costly case of unfair dismissal. Your local HR Dept professional can advise you on this.

Don’t fuel the fire

If you have a summer social planned to celebrate the hard work of your employees, you can set the tone of the event by sticking to sociable hours, implementing a dress code or limiting the consumption of alcohol.

It would be wise to think about the location too. You’ll want to ensure your employees can attend and return home safely. As you could be liable for their safety attending an organised event for work.

Lead the way

For businesses, the actions of a leader and the signals they give out have a huge bearing on the fortunes of the company. And not least on employee relations. They set the tone for the culture and are a north star for staff behaviour. Double standards or perceived hypocrisy can be particularly damaging. Therefore, it would be wise to lead the way and set a great example for your employees to follow.

For further information regarding your rights as an employer when it comes to the out of hours conduct of your employees, contact your local HR Dept adviser for peace of mind.

Preventing People Problems

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