off duty conduct policy

Can Your Off-Duty Behaviour Get You Fired?

Off-duty conduct can be a grey area for both employees and employers. As we engage in activities outside the workplace, from social events to online interactions, it’s crucial to understand how these actions can impact our professional lives. This article explores whether off-duty behaviour can lead to workplace punishment, the circumstances under which this might occur, and how both employees and employers can deal with this complex issue.

The Relevance of Off-Duty Conduct

While employees can face discipline for actions at work, what about actions outside of work? As we approach holiday office parties and time away from the office, a common question arises: Can employees be punished for off-duty conduct?

The short answer is yes, but it is not straightforward.

When Off-Duty Conduct Can Lead to Dismissal

Using off-duty conduct as grounds for summary dismissal is only allowed in rare cases. Key factors include whether the conduct harmed the company’s reputation or product, affected the employee’s or colleagues’ ability to perform their duties, or created a work environment where others are unwilling or unable to work with the employee in question.

Employers should be careful not to rush into disciplining or dismissing an employee for off-duty actions without a thorough investigation. It is crucial to consider if the conduct is related to the workplace or other employees and if there is a genuine concern about the employee continuing in their role.

Criminal Charges and Off-Duty Conduct

It is important to note that merely facing criminal charges outside of work is not always a sufficient reason for dismissal or discipline. Employers must evaluate whether the nature of the charges directly impacts the employee’s ability to perform their job or affects the workplace environment.

The Role of Social Media

With social media, employers have more chances to observe off-duty misconduct. However, not all off-duty misconduct warrants discipline. Even if discipline seems warranted, employers must ensure they have reliable evidence before making any decisions.

Employee Accountability

Employees should be aware that their actions outside of work can impact their workplace. The line between workplace and off-duty expectations can often be blurred, and employees should recognize that off-duty conduct can affect their place of employment, requiring a certain level of accountability.

Establishing an Off-Duty Conduct Policy

To address the complexities of off-duty conduct, employers should establish a clear off-duty conduct policy. This policy should outline the expectations for employee behaviour outside of work and specify the types of off-duty conduct that could lead to disciplinary action. Key elements of an effective policy include:

  • Purpose: Explain why the policy exists and what it covers.
  • Expected Behaviour: Describe what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable, especially those that could damage the company’s reputation or workplace harmony.
  • Investigation Process: Outline how the company will investigate off-duty misconduct, ensuring it is fair and thorough.
  • Consequences: Detail the potential disciplinary actions for breaking the policy, from warnings to dismissal, based on the severity of the misconduct.
  • Privacy and Confidentiality: Assure employees that their privacy will be respected during investigations.
  • Support for Employees: Offer resources like counselling or support programs for employees who might need help with issues affecting their off-duty behaviour.

A well-defined off-duty conduct policy helps both employers and employees understand their responsibilities and the potential consequences of off-duty actions, fostering a respectful and accountable work environment.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help

Addressing Off-Duty Conduct Issues

When issues arise related to off-duty conduct, an employment lawyer can provide valuable guidance. They can help determine whether the off-duty actions in question warrant disciplinary measures or dismissal. This involves evaluating the impact of the conduct on the workplace, considering the company’s policies, and ensuring that any actions taken are legally sound.

Crafting and Implementing Off-Duty Conduct Policies

An employment lawyer can assist employers in creating comprehensive off-duty conduct policies. These policies need to be clear, fair, and legally compliant. A lawyer can ensure that the policy outlines acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, details the investigation process, and specifies potential consequences for violations. They can also help tailor the policy to reflect the specific needs and culture of the organization.

Conducting Fair Investigations

In cases where off-duty conduct is being investigated, an employment lawyer can oversee the process to ensure it is conducted fairly and thoroughly. They can advise on gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and maintaining confidentiality. This helps protect both the employee’s rights and the employer’s interests.

Providing Legal Defence or Representation

For employees facing disciplinary actions due to off-duty conduct, an employment lawyer can provide representation and defence. They can advocate on behalf of the employee, ensuring that their rights are protected and that any disciplinary actions taken are justified and proportional.

Offering Training and Support

Employment lawyers can offer training sessions for both management and employees on the implications of off-duty conduct. This can include understanding the legal boundaries, knowing how to handle potential issues, and fostering a workplace culture that respects both professional and personal boundaries.


Engaging with an employment lawyer can help both employers and employees address the complexities of off-duty conduct and ensure that policies and actions are fair, clear, and legally compliant. Whether it is drafting policies, conducting investigations, or providing defence, a lawyer’s experience is invaluable in maintaining a respectful and accountable workplace.

Contact Achkar Law

If you need assistance with off-duty conduct issues or crafting and implementing comprehensive off-duty conduct policies, Achkar Law is here to help. Our experienced team can provide the guidance and support you need to handle these complex matters effectively.

How We Can Help:

  • Evaluating Off-Duty Conduct: Determine whether off-duty actions warrant disciplinary measures or dismissal.
  • Policy Development: Create clear, fair, and legally compliant off-duty conduct policies tailored to your organization.
  • Investigation Support: Conduct fair and thorough investigations into off-duty conduct.
  • Legal Representation: Provide defence and representation for employees facing disciplinary actions.
  • Training Sessions: Offer training for management and employees on the implications of off-duty conduct and legal boundaries.

Get in Touch

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us:

Our team is dedicated to helping you maintain a respectful and accountable workplace. Reach out to us today to see how we can assist you.

Need Help Crafting Off-Duty Conduct Policies? Book a Consultation with Achkar Law

Creating effective workplace policies, including off-duty conduct policies, is crucial for maintaining a professional and legally compliant environment. Achkar Law offers legal support to help you develop policies that protect your organization while respecting the rights of your employees. Whether you need to draft, review, or update your workplace policies, our team is ready to assist you in ensuring they meet current legal standards.



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