Restricting employee behaviour outside working hours

Mar 27, 2017 | Business Principles

As well as being clear about expectations of behaviour from employees during working hours and on your premises, you may want to consider implementing some restrictions on their behaviour outside work as well. Employees are obviously entitled to a private life and as a general principle, what they get up to in their own time is usually none of your business. But there are some things you can reasonably consider restricting.

Working elsewhere

A blanket ban on staff working anywhere else may not be considered reasonable, particularly for staff who work part time hours, so although some employers do put these clauses in, it’s sensible to be a bit more considered about it.

Instead, consider putting specific restrictions on employees working anywhere or taking on any responsibilities/posts that would represent a conflict of interest with their work for you, and put in place a rule that external engagements or employment must be notified to you and permission granted (not to be unreasonably withheld).

Working excessive additional hours

Working lots of extra hours elsewhere could also be considered a conflict of interest even if the nature of the other work doesn’t represent a business risk in itself. If someone is working full time weekdays for you, but is then working weekends for someone else, or night shifts elsewhere, this will represent a negative impact on your business. They will not be suitably rested between shifts, and their performance, attendance and sickness records are likely to suffer.

This is an example of where a requirement for employees to notify you of other employment and seek permission will be useful, and you are unlikely to be unreasonable to refuse permission in circumstances where the other employment will represent a negative impact for these reasons.

Using company property for profit/personal purposes

If employees have business laptops, mobile phones or other equipment, it’s sensible to be clear on what restrictions are placed on their use. You are likely to want to include restrictions on using company property for any profit-making purposes, and may also want to restrict personal usage of these as well.

Bringing organisation into disrepute

This can be a bit of a catch-all, but for most organisations, reputational damage is a real risk, and you don’t want employees doing anything to cause that. Social media activities mean the potential for significant impact is much greater than it used to be, so it’s crucial for all businesses to have a clear policy on acceptable social media use in and out of the workplace.

Make sure employees are clear that (for example) publishing confidential information on the internet, criticising clients or customers, publishing anything discriminatory, abusive or defamatory are all unacceptable.


Attempts to restrict behaviour outside working hours and outside the workplace must have a genuine, legitimate business reason or it is unlikely to be found reasonable. If it’s just behaviour you disapprove of, any sanction or attempt to restrict it is unlikely to be successful. If it is behaviour which will genuinely damage your business or represent a real business risk, this is more likely to be reasonable.

As with any restrictions or requirements, the key is be absolutely clear about these to employees. They may seem obvious to you, and indeed it may be that a tribunal would agree that the employee should have known a certain behaviour would be unacceptable and therefore (for example) a dismissal or other disciplinary sanction was fair and reasonable. But why risk having to argue that in a tribunal?

Make it clear in policies, contracts or handbooks what behaviour is considered unacceptable and what sanctions may apply. As always, making this clear will hopefully drive the desired behaviour in the first place and prevent having to take action/argue your case in a dispute.

If you would like more advice on restricting employee behaviour do get in touch.