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Topic: Staff handbook - contractual policies and procedures

conduct whilst on company business policy
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Conduct whilst on company business policy

Conduct whilst on company business policy

You’re limited in the restrictions you can place on an employee’s behaviour in their own private time but you can try to control what they get up to at work-related social events by having a policy statement on unruly or offensive behaviour. In fact, you need this to try and protect yourself against possible discrimination or harassment claims.

Vicariously liable

You can legitimately provide reasonable rules of conduct for your employees to adhere to at work-related social events such as office parties, leaving drinks, business lunches, client functions and external training courses or conferences and also when working away on company business. This is particularly important because where a social event can be classed as an extension of employment (and this has been very widely defined by case-law), you can be held vicariously liable for acts of discrimination and harassment committed by your employees at the event, regardless of the fact that the incident took place out of normal office hours and away from the workplace. You have a defence in this case if you can show you took all reasonable steps to prevent the employee committing the discrimination or harassment complained of. Using our Conduct Whilst on Company Business Policy statement, which provides clear written guidelines on required standards of behaviour and also the possible consequences of inappropriate behaviour (disciplinary action and possible dismissal), will assist with your defence should anything untoward happen. Where someone sustains a personal injury as a result of an employee’s wrongful conduct at a work-related social event, you can be liable for that injury too if there’s a sufficient connection between the nature of the employee’s job and their wrongful conduct to make it right for you to be held vicariously liable for their actions. However, there’s no reasonable steps defence available here, so you need to ensure nothing untoward happens in the first place and our policy statement should help with this too.

Out of hours

Where the employee does something in their own free time that is completely unconnected to work, normally that’s none of your business. However, it may still be possible to take action against the employee where they commit a criminal offence outside work which either brings your business into serious disrepute or which renders the employee unsuitable for his or her particular type of work, for example, your accountant who handles all your cash incomings and outgoings is charged with theft or burglary. Our policy statement provides for the possibility of the employee’s dismissal in this type of scenario, although bear in mind that each case will, of course, turn on its own particular facts and circumstances and you will still need to show that any dismissal was fair.

 

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