No 'bail out' for drink-driving staff

Following the involvement of former England footballer and football coach at Repton School, Carlton Palmer, in a drink-driving case in Dubai, the issue of the employers’ liability has now come to the forefront.

A section of the local media reported that Repton School, where Palmer works has basically stood by him, pending results of the police probe.

“The school is aware of the situation and has judged there are no child protection issues in this matter,” Repton’s headteacher Jonathan Hughes-D’Aeth was quoted as saying in the media.

However, lawyers say employers are not liable to provide any help such employees held for drinking and driving cases.

According to Alexander McGeoch, Head of Employment at Hadef & Partners, “As a general proposition, an employer is under no legal obligation to assist an employee who commits a criminal offence. On the contrary, all employees are under an obligation not to do any anything that might jeopardise their right to reside in this country or reduce their capacity to perform their contractual responsibilities effectively.”

This is understood, irrespective of its mention in the contract or not. “This obligation may be expressly stated in the employment contract but, even if it is not so stated, such an obligation is an implied term of employment in any event,” McGeoch told Emirates 247.

However, companies may differ in their approach depending on the kind of offence committed by the employer.

Hadef & Partners says that, “It is important to distinguish between a serious offence and an ‘excusable’ infringement  -  say, for example, being responsible for a minor collision with another vehicle due to inadvertence, where the penalty is likely to be a small fine. If, on the other hand, an employee were to be found guilty of a more serious offence – for example, a crime involving dishonesty or immorality -   the employer would, under UAE Labour Law provisions, have the right to terminate the employee’s contract immediately. In a case where an employee was convicted for a ‘drink/drive’ offence and a sentence of imprisonment resulted, the employer would again have the right to terminate the employee forthwith, since the employee would perforce be ‘absent without leave’ during the period of imprisonment imposed by the court. If on being convicted of a ‘drink/drive’ offence the employee escaped a prison sentence but received a heavy fine and had his driving licence suspended for a time, then the employer would not be entitled to dismiss the employee summarily. It would, however, be open to the employer to terminate the employee on notice on the grounds that he (or she) had hazarded their right to reside and work in this country and also, in the case of an employee who needed a valid licence in order to perform his (or her) contractual duties (e.g. a sales representative), for having impaired their capacity to perform those duties during the period of the driving ban," he added.

Human Resource experts agree that employees commit such crimes in their personal capacity and the employer is under no obligation to protect them. 

“Drinking and driving is against the law. I do not understand why a company should take any different position in such a situation. Possibly the employee has done so in his personal time and he/she is responsible as per the law of the country,” Konstantina Sakellariou, Partner, Marketing & Operations Director at Stanton Chase told this website.

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