Does bad behaviour outside of work stay outside of work?
It’s a common misconception that once your employees leave work for the day, what they do outside of work is nothing to do with you as their employer. Actually, if an employee’s actions outside the workplace impact your organisation, their colleagues, or affects the way they do their job, employers can intervene.
It may even be necessary to take disciplinary action to protect your staff, uphold your company values and minimise reputational damage.
Below are some typical scenarios of where you may be required to get involved.
Social media posts
Inappropriate posts placed on social media is the most common way that employees’ behaviour results in disciplinary action. Even if posted from a private account, if their post can be viewed by a wider audience action may be necessary. Examples of inappropriate posts include:
- Negative or derogatory comments about the company, clients, or colleagues
- Sharing private company information
- Commenting or sharing content that is against company values, for example sharing discriminatory rhetoric
- Responding or acting on behalf of the company without permission to do so
Action can be taken even if the posts were written before they commenced employment with your company if the inappropriate posts re-emerge that potentially bring your company into disrepute.
If the police are involved
A criminal investigation, charge, or conviction will not necessarily justify disciplinary action or dismissal. Your role is not to judge them for breaking the law. It’s to determine whether their alleged actions breach your company procedures, and as such whether you need to take action. Your investigation can run independently to any ongoing police enquiries.
Any action you take against the employee should depend on the nature of the alleged crime and what effect it will have on the individual’s employment. Disciplinary action will almost certainly be justified where a criminal conviction prevents the employee from carrying out their duties. For example having their driver’s licence suspended when their job requires them to drive, or in extreme cases if they’re unable to attend work as they’re given a prison sentence, would be fair reasons to go through with this process.
Bullying and harassment
Bullying and harassment that involves clients, customers, or suppliers that takes place outside of the workplace needs to be investigated as it can contribute to a hostile work environment for those concerned. You have a duty of care to protect your employees from such behaviours.
If bullying and harassment is an issue inside the workplace, you can read our expert-lead article on how to stop difficult employees creating a toxic workplace.
As 1 in 10 people reportedly meet their partner at work, relationships in the workplace are common and in most cases are unlikely to need any involvement from the employer. However, if the relationship turns sour, disagreements outside of work can sometime spill over into the workplace. It may be necessary to arrange for those concerned to work on different departments or within different areas of the business to avoid ongoing conflict. If there are allegations of any abuse or harassment you may need to take appropriate disciplinary action.
If an employee has publicly been reported to have taken illegal drugs this could potentially affect your organisation’s reputation. To help limit the organisational damage it may be necessary to invoke a disciplinary procedure. Read more in this article on drug misuse in the workplace.
Polices and procedures
Having clear policies and procedures that inform employees of the expected standards of conduct outside of working hours – and that failure to follow them could lead to disciplinary action – is often enough to eliminate the situation before it arises.
Please note, in all cases you must ensure that you conduct a thorough investigation and base your decisions on the evidence you obtain, rather then public opinion or hear-say.
Further advice and support
You can watch our webinar on the disciplinary process here.
We specialise in making payroll and HR easy for UK businesses. For further guidance or any of these topics or if you need support on any employment law issue, you can learn more about our HR Services or call 0845 619 1743.