Covid-19, Employment Law

What can I do if an employee isn’t following lockdown rules outside of work?

Our team of specialists are ready to help your business today

What can I do if an employee isn’t following lockdown rules outside of work?

Employees who fail to follow Covid-19 lockdown rules outside of work can create problems for their employer, particularly if they work in an industry that centres around face-to-face contact and cannot work from home. By failing to follow the lockdown rules in their personal life, they may be putting colleagues and clients at risk.

Do I have a legal responsibility to ensure my employees are complying with Covid-19 lockdown rules outside of work?

You are not legally required to check on employees, but you will be liable – and might possibly have to pay a fine of up to £1000 – if you knowingly allow an employee who is self-isolating after testing positive to attend any place other than where they are self-isolating (including if their household members have tested positive). If you know an employee has tested positive – or that someone they live with has tested positive – you are responsible for stopping the employee from working.

What should I do if I think an employee has been breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules outside of work?

Consider the overall consequences to your business. Is the employee putting other colleagues directly at risk of catching the virus, or could it create a reputational issue for your company?
Investigate. What evidence do you have of the breach itself? Has it been published on social media publicly or is it a private message? It will be harder to use a private message as an example as a greater expectation of privacy can be expected by your employee, but a video posted on someone’s homepage of social media would be acceptable evidence. In either situation, speak to the employee concerned as this conversation will be the main evidence. Finding evidence after an employee has denied breaching the rules could result in additional dishonesty allegations.
Review your communications. Look at any communications you have sent out to update employees on the regulations that highlights the importance of compliance, such as any training provided on staying protected from the virus or wearing PPE. If you haven’t communicated anything, the regulations/guidance implemented by the government still acts as evidence, but personal communication to employees arguably strengthens your case. The seriousness of the breach might also depend on what role the employee has within your organisation; are they senior and meant to be setting an example? Have they been involved in rolling out the training?

What should I do if they continue to break the regulations outside of work?

The action you could take depends on how serious you feel the breach is to your business.
What you can do will really depend on what you gauge from the investigation process – what policies do you have in place? People working in care, for example, usually have a lot of health and safety obligations in relation to service users – so a breach of the rules could be significant.
If you haven’t already, you may want to think about introducing a Code of Conduct policy which sets out how you will deal with certain breaches, i.e., through the disciplinary procedure. At Howarths, we recently issued clients with a disciplinary update to insert into their disciplinary policy to act as authority for such breaches to be treated – in the worst-case scenario – as a gross misconduct offence. This could lead to dismissal without notice and without pay.

Can I dismiss the employee if they continually breach the regulations outside of work?

This will vary will depend on the investigation. A first breach could result in a finding of gross misconduct, or gross misconduct might only be found where an employee has repeated the breach or similar breaches. We recently dealt with a circumstance where the breach resulted in a first written warning, however repeated breaches should certainly be acted on and dealt with more seriously. Either way, taking formal action – beginning with an investigation – can help to draw a line in the sand and establish a precedent that any breaches your employees make will be treated seriously.

For more information or help on this topic, get in touch via our website or call 01274 864 999.

© 2022 Howarths UK