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What if an employee turns out to be a hooligan?

What to do if one or more of your workers engaged in football hooliganism recently

The group stages of the 2016 UEFA European Championship were marred by violence, with fans clashing both inside and outside the stadium. Five English people were jailed for their part in the fighting before the England v Russia game. French authorities deported several English fans and around 30 Russian supporters.

Behaviour of this kind can have a significant negative impact on businesses that discover their employees were involved. What if one (or more) of them was in your employ, and are the repercussions the same in other European countries?

The situation varies from country to country. In the UK there is a division between an individual’s work and private life, but it only goes so far. If an individual’s private actions bring the employer into disrepute, affect their suitability to do their job, or damage their relationship with their employer, colleagues or customers, disciplinary action or dismissal might be justified.

If an employee is arrested many employers would consider tough action. However, they cannot simply rely on the arrest, the police investigations or a subsequent charge or conviction. They need to carry out an investigation of their own and hold a disciplinary hearing giving the worker a chance to tell their side of the story.

In the majority of European countries labour legislation makes a clear distinction between an employee’s behaviour at work and in their private life. Therefore someone who is arrested for hooliganism, or who features in media reports or social media participating in hooliganism, cannot be dismissed solely for this reason.

However, in exceptional circumstances in some countries – such as Spain, Italy, Germany and France – serious private misconduct can justify dismissal if the employer can show that it has a negative direct effect on the employment relationship. For example, if a criminal offence committed outside work directly undermines the trust in an employee´s ability to fulfill their contractual duties.

This is also the case in almost all countries when the worker has a key function, holds a position of trust in the company, or is a company representative/public figure (for example a manager, spokesperson or salesperson). In this case the employer would need to prove that the employee actively took part in illegal activity.

If a staff member is injured as a result of hooliganism, in all countries they are entitled to take sick leave in accordance with their employment contract. In Belgium, France and Spain employers have no alternative but to pay the sick leave indemnity. However, under German law an employee hurt in a fight may not be entitled to statutory sick pay if they actively provoked the fight. The Italians take a similar approach.

Hooliganism is not just limited to football matches. It can also occur during protests, strikes or on a drunken night out. The legal position and the actions an employer can take to address hooliganism in these scenarios will be the same as above.

Dan Begbie-Clench is a partner at workplace lawyers Doyle Clayton