The employee/employer relationship out of hours?

Posted by Luke Mitchell on 15 September 2015
The employee/employer relationship out of hours?

From time to time, employees may represent their employer at after hours functions, wear a uniform to and from work, participate in events on behalf of their employer or drive a company car displaying the company name or logo.  What can an employer reasonably expect in terms of the behaviour of their employees during outside of business hours activities? How can out of hours conduct impact on an employee's employment?

There have been a number of cases come before the Fair Work Commission where out of hours conduct has led to a termination.  The examples of out of hours conduct where the FWC has upheld the termination of employment includes:

  • 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 Eve 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;  and
  • a brewing company employee being convicted of high-range drink-driving, while out-of-work hours in a privately-owned vehicle.

Any policies developed by an employer should expressly state the employer's expectations of all employees, the procedure required for employees to meet 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 organisation values are made clear and unambiguous to employees.  It is imperative that policies and procedures are made available to employees and that the training of all staff is provided in order to ensure that standards and expectations are mutually understood and maintained.