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    Ski party scandal: staff accused of abusive and aggressive behaviour on ski weekend.

    Mt BullerRecruitment firm Michael Page is in damage control after a number of its employees were embroiled in a Mt Buller ski party scandal.

    Small businesses have the same duty of care as their larger corporate counterparts to provide a workplace free from intimidation and harassment, and while most employers recognize that they are vicariously liable for the negligent act of an employee which occurs in the course of their employment, recent cases highlight that an employer’s duty of care extends to protecting employees from the behaviour of co-workers both inside and outside the workplace.

    Vicarious liability is the responsibility an employer has for the actions of its employees towards others both during work hours and in other work related circumstances. If these actions are found to be unlawful, both the employer and the employee who behaved inappropriately may be held responsible.

     

    There are many circumstances in which an employer can be held vicariously liable for its employees' conduct outside work hours. Vicarious liability can arise even if the conduct occurred out of hours and not in the course of the employee’s work as long as there is enough of a connection to the workplace or business. 
     
    It's not enough for an employer to simply say a party isn't a work-sanctioned function. An employer needs to ensure they take all reasonable steps to distance itself from any non-sanctioned function. They must ensure staff are aware of their personal responsibilities and consequences for not complying. An employer would not typically be found vicariously liable for workplace incidents arising out of unauthorised acts of its employees which are beyond its reasonable control.
     
    However, it is only in exceptional circumstances that an employer has a right to extend any supervision over the private activities of employees. 
    The FWC has summarised its approach to out of hours conduct in the following terms:

    The out of hours conduct must have a relevant connection to the employment relationship in order to be a valid reason for dismissal. In ascertaining whether a relevant connection is established, the following matters should be considered:


    (a) Whether the conduct, viewed objectively, is likely to cause serious damage to the relationship between the employee and employer;
    (b) Whether the conduct damages the employer’s interests; or
    (c) Whether the conduct is incompatible with the employee’s duty as an employee. 

     
     

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    Craig McFadden's clear, practical counsel and strong influencing and relationship building skills have gained him credibility at both the executive and line manager level and he is frequently called on to coach managers through complex industrial relations issues, termination or redundancy matters, performance reviews or to prepare for discussions with difficult individuals and team members.

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