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Staff Behaving Badly: Is Misconduct Outside Work a Fair Dismissal?

Published 06 September 2016

At some stage it is likely that most employers will have to deal with employees behaving badly outside of work (1). The chances are that with mobile phone and CCTV footage and social media posts of such incidents being eagerly shared nowadays, what it is tempting to consider may be irrefutable evidence will be easy to hand.

This was highlighted by a recent incident where a Birmingham primary school teacher was captured on camera verbally abusing a nightclub doorman.

The clip which shows the female teacher’s foul-mouthed rant was shared online and it is reported that parents recognised her and demanded that the head-teacher and school governors investigate.

The footage has divided opinion, with comments ranging from she is a disgrace and should be sacked to she is only a human being having a drink on a night out.

An employee’s behaviour outside of work can amount to misconduct especially if it brings the employer into disrepute or is incompatible with the role carried out by the individual (2).

As with any case where dismissal may be a possibility, it is important to avoid a knee jerk reaction as getting it right, especially when the incident receives media coverage, can mean that if a decision is taken to terminate an employee’s contract that the action is justified (3).

Incidents should be investigated in a fair and reasonable manner in line with the employer’s procedure and in accordance with the Acas Code of Practice (4).

The investigation should aim to establish the facts and gather all relevant evidence and information (5).

A disciplinary policy can cover behaviour outside of work, particularly if it may be damaging to the employer’s reputation.

If a decision is taken to instigate disciplinary action based on an incident outside of the workplace, the employee should be informed and provided with all of the evidence of the case against them and given reasonable time to prepare to respond to it at a disciplinary hearing.

References

  1. Stacey A. Drunk teacher rant: “As long as she”s a good teacher does it matter?’ - Birmingham Mail [Internet]. Birmingham Mail. 2016 [cited 2016 Sep 6]. Available from: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/drunk-teacher-rant-as-long-11781828
  2. Bennetts E. Emilie Bennetts: Misconduct outside work – a fair dismissal? [Internet]. HRreview. 2014 [cited 2016 Sep 6]. Available from: http://www.hrreview.co.uk/analysis/analysis-employment-law/misconduct-outside-work-a-fair-dismissal/53708
  3. Thompsons Solicitors. Issue 63 (October 2001) [Internet]. Thompsons Solicitors. 2001 [cited 2016 Sep 6]. Available from: http://www.thompsons.law.co.uk/ltext/l0930001.htm
  4. Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice | Acas [Internet]. [cited 2016 Aug 8]. Available from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2174
  5. How to conduct a disciplinary investigation. [Internet]. Castle Associates Ltd. 2015 [cited 2016 Sep 6]. Available from: https://castleassociates.org.uk/?q=support-centre/employer/how-conduct-disciplinary-investigation

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