The employee/employer relationship out of hours?

Posted on 04 October 2012

The employer/employee relationship is one that once formed, does not exclusively relate to the hours of operation of the business. Employees often represent their company at after hours functions, wearing a company uniform to and from work, participating in events on behalf of their employer or driving a company car which displays the company name or logo, directly linking the driver and their road behaviour to their company. What is the expectation the employer has or can expect of the behaviour of their employees during their out of business hours activities and what should employees be aware of as far as out of hours conduct impacting on their employment?

Fair Work Australia has seen a number of unfair dismissal cases brought before them where employees believed their out of hours behaviour was separate from their employment and dismissal was not warranted. However FWA accepted that there were grounds for dismissal and upheld the employers decision to terminate. The cases involved the following after hours behaviour:

  • drug use impacting on performance or the safety of others
  • social media used to threaten, intimidate or spread offensive information about a co-worker or their employer
  • displaying violent behaviour towards a co-worker or the employer
  • offensive behaviour in a hotel room following a combined Christmas and farewell party
  • punching a fellow employee in the face at a private New Year’s Ever party attended by other employees
  • a male employee using offensive, abusive and threatening language towards a female colleague at a motel being used by staff in connection with a company training course
  • a brewing company employee being convicted of high-range drink-driving, while out-of-work hours in a privately-owned vehicle

Employers are also under an obligation to inform their employees of any amendments to contracts, policies or procedures. Contracts should not only meet basic statutory obligations and set out the expectations of the role being undertaken, but outline fair and reasonable standards of behaviour expected of employees. Specific clauses in employment contracts may also make reference to company and organisational policies and procedures.

Any policies developed by an organisation should expressly state the employers expectations of all employees, the procedure required for employees to met their expectations and the result of a failure by employees to meet the relevant expectations. Policies and Procedure help organisations create and maintain the cultural environment within a workplace. Employers need to ensure that company values and implied statutory obligations are made clear and unambiguous to employees. It is imperative that copies of all policies and procedures are made easily available to employees and that the required training of all relevant staff is organised by employers to ensure that standards and expectations are mutually understood and maintained.

If you need help with any workplace issues let our experienced team help guide you through the Fair Work maze.