Luckily I have not had to deal with this directly at the pub. So I am going to deal with the ‘what ifs’ in this blog. What could, or couldn’t, I do about behaviour of an employee during non working time?
Sometimes the answer to this question is pretty straightforward. In more extreme cases of someone breaking the law, for example, common sense usually prevails. I wouldn’t expect a taxi-driver convicted of drunken-driving to be able to carry on with their employment, or a teacher to continue in the classroom after being found guilty of child abuse.
The situation is different, however, when, sticking with the same two offences, the person concerned is employed let’s say, as a supermarket cashier or an office administrator. Should that person be disciplined, and possibly lose their job, as a result of something which has happened away from the workplace in their own time? Generally speaking, the answer is no.
When dealing with behaviour that occurs outside work, the guiding principle is that it will usually be unfair to discipline or dismiss someone, unless the behaviour has had a detrimental impact on the organisation they work for, or their suitability to do their job.
In the licensing trade, convictions involving dishonesty may well give rise to a lack of trust and confidence and could, therefore, be legitimate grounds for the disciplinary process to kick in.
Conduct that would cause me most concern would be a member of staff getting drunk and behaving badly or being aggressive or violent at another pub. This could well damage my reputation with people believing I must allow similar behaviour in my establishment. It could also call into question that member of staff’s ability to sell alcohol responsibly. I would definitely be considering disciplinary action if this were to happen.
As always my first port of call is my contract. Does it contain anything relating to such behaviour? I would expect to find a clause about bringing the company into disrepute amounting to gross misconduct.
I would need to invite the employee to an investigatory meeting before I decided whether to discipline or not. What explanation do they have about their behaviour? If they are not credible or simply do not justify their actions I will need to weigh up the impact it has on my business and their ability to do their job. If either is compromised I would probably start disciplinary proceedings.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, weigh up the options open to you, particularly the alternatives to dismissal, and avoid knee-jerking into the latter solely on the basis of a conviction or arrest – in itself this would probably be classed as unfair. The golden rule is the behaviour should have some impact on your business in order to warrant disciplinary proceedings.
Mel Parsons is the licensee of The Tap & Barrel in Plymouth and managing director of specialist employment law firm, Insight Legal. Through her blogs she aims to provide an insight into issues she has faced with as a publican. However they are not designed as advice on how you should handle cases as each case is unique