Steven Gerrard, LIverpool’s Captain, is in the news (and court) today for punching a businessman in a bar in Merseyside. The incident happened when Gerrard was celebrating Liverpool’s 5-1 win over Newcastle United. Gerrard has admitted punching but says he was defending himself (although also descirbies himself as being ‘7 out of 10’ on a drunkenness scale.)
This throws (pardon the pun) up the question of what would be the implications if this was one of your employees involved in an out of work incident? Physical violence in the workplace would, of course, amount to gross misconduct entitling an employer to dismiss without notice or pay in lieu of notice. Any actions outside work could potentially also entitle you to dismiss for gross misconduct on the basis that the employee has brought the reputation of the Company into disrepute and/or committed a criminal offence. This would always depend on what is classed in your contract/disciplinary policy as amounting to gross misconduct and detail as to what actually took place.
As to whether you can be liable for acts committed by employees, the answer is yes, provided the act complained of is done in the course of employment. The dividing line between what is and what is not within the course of employment is a fine one. Like in Gerrard’s situation, a brawl outside work hours in a pub is unlikely to be viewed as done in the course of employment. In contrast, if this was a work’s do straight after work with work colleagues then it may well fall within the definition.
As a footnote, for the avoidance of doubt, the fact that Gerrard was celebrating a win over Newcastle Utd and I am a Toon Army supporter has had no influence over my thinking or stance in relation to this blog. Much.