Racist Reaction to England’s Euro 2020 Loss – Managing Employees Behaviour Outside of Work

Unforgivable racist abuse has flooded social media platforms after last night’s Euro 2020 final saw England lose to Italy. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka have been targeted with “vile” racist comments and the Marcus Rashford mural in Manchester has been vandalised.

While the “disgusting” comments have been condemned by many, including the prime minister and Duke of Cambridge, many are looking for further action to be taken against the abusers.

Numerous people are now asking the employers of offenders to ‘stand up’ and to not tolerate their employee’s behaviour.

Most notably, Savills estate agents are being called to investigate their employee, Andrew Bone, who posted a racist tweet, with many clients and partners threatening to boycott the company.

This recent event poses the question ‘what can an employer do about their employees’ behaviour outside of the workplace?’.

There have been several recent incidents of employee’s misbehaviour outside of work that has led to suspension from their workplaces. Lewis Hughes, 24, was fired from Caplen Estates estate agents after a video went viral showing him accosting Professor Chris Whitty.

Last month, Julie Burchill, a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, was fired for a racist tweet she wrote after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced the birth of their second child.

Joanna Toch, a family lawyer, has also been suspended by her employer for tweeting an offensive joke following the birth.

So, when does behaviour outside of work amount to misconduct and what can an employer do?

What kind of behaviour constitutes misconduct?

Misconduct can cause many adverse reactions, from animosity between employees to damaging the company’s reputation and loss of key clients and customers.

When looking at whether behaviour outside of work is grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal, the key consideration is whether the employee’s behaviour has a bearing on the employment relationship. For example, this could include:

  • Behaviours that bring the company into disrepute
  • Behaviour that is linked to work, such as misbehaviour at a workplace event
  • Conduct which is conflicting with the role carried out by the employee, for example, a professional sportsperson taking illegal drugs.

What steps can an employer take?

We would recommend that the employer considers:

  • Is the employee able to carry out their work after the misconduct?
  • What is the relevance of the conduct to the workplace? Has it caused harm to their reputation?
  • Has there been damage to colleague and client relationships?
  • Are there any steps that could be taken to allow the employee to remain in employment without jeopardising the business?

Cases involving violence, sexual conduct or dishonesty are most likely to affect the employment relationship leading to disciplinary action or dismissal.

As with any disciplinary action, the matter must be thoroughly investigated and the procedure set out in the company handbook must be followed.

Prevention of misconduct outside of work

To prevent any kind of misconduct outside of work, we encourage you to:

  • Provide employees with examples of behaviour that will constitute misconduct in your staff handbook to eliminate any ambiguity
  • Highlight higher standard of behaviour for senior and public-facing employees
  • Discourage staff from identifying their business in personal blogs or social media accounts
  • Ensure that all disciplinary and grievance processes comply with the relevant ACAS codes.

We highly advise that you seek professional legal advice if an employee has participated in any misconduct outside of the workplace to ensure that you are not at risk of unfair dismissal. This can be a particularly tricky area of law that requires expert advice.

If you would like to discuss any points in this article further or are looking for independent advice when dealing with employee misconduct please contact Spire Solicitors LLP highly knowledgeable and experienced People Services team on 01603 677077.