The short answer is, yes, an employee can be dismissed for something they did outside of work, however as is often the case, it does depend upon the circumstances.

Employers need to carefully consider the nature of the employee’s role, the extent to which the offence undermines the ‘trust and confidence’ which underpins the employment relationship, and in particular they should ensure they are following the correct procedures and asking the right questions when investigating. Above all they need to answer the question:

“Does this effect the employee’s ability to do their work”

For example, an accountant with easy access to cash and assets can be held to a much higher standard of honesty in their behaviour outside work, than an hourly paid employee.

Recently a client contacted us regarding an employee’s activities outside of work, here is how we responded.

Setting the Scene

An employee who was responsible for the keys to the building and entrusted with the responsibility of company equipment was reportedly shoplifting from a local supermarket during their lunch breaks. The local supermarket had approached the employee prior to contacting their employer. The supermarket presented evidence, including CCTV footage to the employer. The supermarket wanted compensation for the value of the items.

The employer immediately called our advice line…

Next Steps

To establish the best course of action, we needed our client to establish a few things:

  • How long had the employee been employed by them
  • Were they employed in a position of trust?
  • Were they on their break
  • Could the employee be linked back to the company i.e. uniform
  • Does their actions have an impact on their ability to do their job*?

We advised our client to investigate.

The Investigation and Outcome

Through a thorough investigation it was established that:

  • The employee was wearing a uniform with the company logo clearly visible
  • The employee admitted to the theft
  • The employee had been employed for less than two years

We spoke with the client regarding the different options available to them going forwards, however the employee then went absent without leave (AWOL) and the AWOL procedure was followed, with guidance from AHR Consultants, the employee was eventually dismissed.

While this case did not specifically end with a dismissal regarding an employee’s actions outside of work, it did cause the employee to react in a way which lead to their dismissal.

If you are unsure of how to approach a subject with an employee, or how to navigate a grey area such as the one outlined above, please seek advice from a professional. If you are a client of AHR Consultants, you have access to unlimited telephone and email advice from our consultants.

If you are not a client of AHR Consultants and would like access to our services, we have several service options available for businesses of all sizes.

You can see our full range of HR support packages here or call us on 0345 076 2288 to speak to a member of the team about the level of support you require.

*We often get calls about people that have been detained overnight for a drunk and disorderly mishap, and the employer believes they must dismiss due to that arrest, however if it doesn’t have a direct impact on their ability to continue to work for you then it is not a sufficient reason for dismissal.