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Can employers discipline staff for covid non-compliance outside of work?

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

HRreview reports that Nelsons, an employment law firm, has expressed that it would be legal for employers to take action against individuals who were caught not complying with COVID-19 regulations outside of work. This comes after various instances of workers facing disciplinary action or even losing their job altogether as a result of flaunting the rules.

Most notably, news presenter Kay Burley and three of her colleagues were taken off the air after being found breaching COVID rules in December 2020. However, ultimately, employers have a “duty of care to protect the health and safety of their staff”.

For workers who physically have to go into the office, this could mean that employers should be mindful of this duty through installing sanitisation stations, implementing strict social distancing measures and making a full effort to control the risks and hazards which could cause an employee harm.

What employees choose to do in their spare time is their own decision unless, as in the case of Singh v London Country Bus Services Ltd 1976, it affects the employee’s ability to do their work.

This could certainly be the case in situations where employees chose to disregard COVID-19 safety regulations and then return to their office which could put other staff at risk.

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