HR Grapevine - Danny Baker - Can you be fired for conduct outside work?

An extract from another interesting article from the team at "HR Grapevine". Click on the link to find our more or register for their regular updates:

It’s a tricky debate – can an employee be fired for something they do outside of the workplace? When it comes to recent news, it seems they can.

Earlier this week, BBC Radio 5 Live host Danny Baker was sacked by the BBC after he posted a ‘racist’ royal baby tweet. He shared an image online of a couple with a monkey and tagged it ‘Royal baby leaves hospital’ to his 504,000 followers.

The image caused an uproar among the media and prompted the studio to remove Baker from his post as a host of the radio show.

The 61-year-old claimed that he would often use this image when any posh people have a baby, reports The Daily Mail, and quickly deleted the image describing it as a ‘stupid thinking gag’.

According to Law Donut, employees’ activities outside of work, including those resulting in criminal offences, are not grounds for dismissal unless they affect other employees' abilities to do their job. For example, if the actions or activities could bring the business into disrepute or fracture relationships between colleagues, suppliers or customers.

As such, the BBC’s sacking could be considered fair as Baker’s decision to share the ‘racist’ tweet could make other staff members at the studio feel uncomfortable and disrupt colleague relationships.

However, Baker isn’t the only employee to come under fire for actions made outside of the workplace. Last month HR Grapevine reported that the Emmerdale actress Shila Iqbal, who played Aiesha Richards in the hit show, was sacked from her role after a thread of historic racially offensive and homophobic tweets came to light.

Meanwhile, Director of Guardians of The Galaxy James Gunn had his contract of employment terminated with Disney after tweets joking about paedophilia and rape resurfaced.

It seems that whether an employee’s actions are historic or recent, employers can source Twitter comments and threads with ease, making it difficult for anyone to hide on social media from a potential backlash, which can ultimately result in a dismissal.

But what can HR do to avoid these kinds of situations? Law Donut suggest the following top tips:

  • Provide examples of different types of behaviour that could be considered misconduct or gross misconduct, which could bring a business into disrepute in the staff handbook.

  • Highlight the importance of higher standards needed by senior staff members or those who are public-facing.

  • Prohibit staff from identifying your business in a personal blog or tweets.

  • Provide training for staff on how to appropriately use social media.