Gross misconduct


Gross misconduct is a serious, and sometimes deliberate, behaviour that destroys the relationship between you and an employee. These acts are different to simple acts of misconduct, such as lateness or a failure to complete work tasks on time, and will instead enable employers to dismiss staff without notice pay. This guide explains how to deal with this matter in a legally compliant manner.

Defining employee misconduct

It’s important to understand that what constitutes gross misconduct may not always be the same from one organisation to the next. It’ll vary depending on the type of business and its culture. For many brands, the likes of theft, fraud, and physical violence are nearly always thought of as gross misconduct acts. Behaviour such as foul language or personal use of the work’s computer may gross misconduct for some employers but not for others. The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures states that disciplinary rules and policies should give specific examples of actions you regard as gross misconduct. When listing these examples, it’s important that you expressly state that the list is not exhaustive to allow them some flexibility in determining what constitutes workplace misconduct. Theft, fraud and dishonesty are generally considered as clear examples of gross misconduct. Examples of these actions include:
  • Stealing company equipment.
  • Stealing personal belongings from colleagues.
  • Making fraudulent expense claims.
  • Doctoring time sheets.
Acts such as this can cause irreparable damage to the employment relationship, making a dismissal well within the list of reasonable responses. Offensive behaviour such as harassment, bullying and threats of violence are also typically considered as gross misconduct.

Your duties as an employer

You have a duty to protect your staff from harm. So any individual who jeopardises this should receive the appropriate disciplinary actions. But remember that employees who participate in offensive behavior may claim their actions were inoffensive. Despite this, you can still proceed with dismissal for gross misconduct, especially if these actions threaten the integrity of the organisation and stand to negatively impact workplace morale.

The law regarding alcohol and drugs

Most workplaces will have strict rules on drugs and alcohol, which include a total ban on staff arriving to work under the influence of such substances. Employees who arrive to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol can pose a serious threat to the health & safety of colleagues and any third parties. Increasing the risk of work-related accidents and potentially bringing the company into disrepute. It’s clear to see how this scenario constitutes gross misconduct. Where illegal drugs are the issue, you may even choose to report this incident to the relevant authorities.

Gross misconduct dismissal

Ultimately, when determining if an act constitutes gross misconduct employers need to refer to their gross misconduct procedure. But you should also assess whether the act is enough to break down the trust and confidence of the employment relationship. In these situations, you can proceed with a summary dismissal providing you can prove the decision falls within the band of reasonable responses. You can draft a gross misconduct dismissal letter as part of these proceedings. This is important as it keeps a written record for your business.

Get expert advice immediately

Need more help with gross misconduct in the workplace? We can help guide you through any employee disputes. Call us today: 0800 028 2420.

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