Gross misconduct procedure

19 September 2019

Every business must have a set of rules in place to establish the behaviour of your employees in and around your premises.

But, occasionally, one of your employees may cause a serious incident. When this happens there can be significant consequences.

In this guide, we explain the laws you have to follow in the event an employee breaches your company policies in a severe way.

What is classed as gross misconduct at work?

Gross misconduct is inappropriate behaviour that's so serious you have the right to dismiss the employee for their first offence. Some examples of gross misconduct include:

  1. Theft, fraud, and dishonesty.
  2. Offensive behaviour.
  3. Breach of health & safety rules.

Some of these will be obvious for you. For example, is theft gross misconduct? Yes. For example, if a staff member steals some of your company equipment it would be a serious breach of contract.

Such behaviour can warrant immediate dismissal without any notice.

But is gross misconduct a sackable offence? Yes, but you do have to follow the right procedures. It’s not a case of documenting an incident and then firing a person on the spot, you should look to respect your employee’s rights and follow Irish employment laws.

You must have a genuine belief based on a fair investigation the employee is guilty of the alleged misconduct.

Important gross misconduct procedures

If you do want to remove an employee from your premises after serious gross misconduct, you can do.

However, that isn’t an immediate confirmation they’re guilty. You must hold a thorough investigation into the incident to determine all of the facts.

You may want to have a disciplinary hearing where the employee has a chance to provide their side of the story. This is particularly important if you’re uncertain about what exactly the employee’s role in the incident was.

You can prepare disciplinary questions for gross misconduct for this. These can include questions around the incident in question. There aren’t set questions to follow, just be aware to cover the basics such as:

  • “Can you tell me what happened during the incident?”
  • “To clarify, what did you say to the other person?”
  • “What time did this occur?”
  • “Is there anything else you’d like for us to consider?”

But does gross misconduct always mean dismissal? Not always. There’s a range of reasonable responses you can take into consideration. This includes:

  • The response to the incident from the employee.
  • Justifying circumstances the employee offers.
  • The length of their service with your business.
  • Whether there’s a history of misconduct.
  • The employee’s normal behaviour.
  • Your consistent approach to acts of gross misconduct.

Your employee’s rights

If you dismiss a staff member due to a perceived act of gross misconduct, he or she may respond by filing a claim in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The WRC would look to investigate if an unfair dismissal took place. The WRC would broadly consider:

  • Whether you held a reasonable belief the employee is guilty of the alleged offence.
  • If you held a proper investigation into the act.

Proving gross misconduct is a key issue here. The WRC will look for evidence that confirms it was a reasonable decision by you to believe the employee carried out the alleged offence.

However, if an employee admitted to the incident at the time then they can’t challenge your decision at a later date.

At a future date, you may also have to offer a reference after gross misconduct. This may seem difficult if the former employee ruined their professional relationship with you.

You’re under no obligation to provide one. But if you do, your obligation is to provide a fair and accurate reflection on the employee’s time with your business. Overall, it must be truthful.

Need our help?

Acts of gross misconduct can be very disruptive to your daily business running. Get immediate help to make sure you follow the right legal process: 0818 923 923.

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