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Can you discipline an employee for off-duty misconduct?

by , 01 November 2013
You're allowed to intervene in your employees' private relationships if it affects your business. But does this mean you an even go as far as disciplining an employee who commits an offence off-duty? Read on to find out if you're allowed to discipline an employee for off-duty misconduct.

If you're an employer, chances are you'll face one of these situations or situations similar to these:

  • Your employee gets arrested after being involved in a drunken brawl after work.
  • An employee gets into a fight while off-duty and injures himself in the process, causing him to take sick leave.
  • Whilst on a flight to take up his new position in Jo'burg, your employee sexually harasses a flight attendant.

But the big question is: Can you discipline an employee who has committed an offence whilst off-duty?

The short answer is 'yes, you can'.

Here's what the courts say about disciplining an employee for off-duty misconduct

The court's approach to off-duty misconduct is that generally this isn't your business, explains the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

BUT the Loose Leaf Service adds there must be a sufficient link between your employee's conduct and your business.

Basically this means, your employee's non-work related conduct must have a detrimental or intolerable effect on the efficiency, profitability and continuity of your business before youcan take action.

If there isn't this link, your employee's conduct is likely to be non-work related conduct or, as it sometimes termed, 'off-the-job conduct'.

It's up to you to establish that you have a reason to justify disciplinary action against your employee.

Here are some examples where an employee's conduct may have a detrimental effect on your business:

The bottom line: You can discipline an employee for off-duty conduct as long as there's a sufficient link between your employee's conduct and your business.



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