Dealing with Gross Misconduct – How do You do it?

Gross misconduct is behaviour so bad that it destroys the relationship between you and your employee and it usually results in dismissal. But what exactly can be considered gross misconduct? It’s important to know, so that you can avoid unfair dismissal claims.

Here’s how to identify and manage gross misconduct.

What is gross misconduct?

Gross misconduct is a serious breach of contract and includes any misconduct which, in your opinion, causes serious damage to your business, or irreparably breaks down trust and relationships.

There is no exhaustive list, but it can include theft, physical violence, bullying, damage to property, accessing pornographic sites, damaging your firm’s reputation, inability to work due to alcohol or drugs, breaching health and safety rules, failing to obey instructions, or serious neglect of duty. Repeated minor misconduct, such as being late to work, is not gross misconduct, although it can lead to dismissal after previous unexpired warnings.

Should my staff handbook include examples of gross misconduct?
Include a list of examples of what usually counts as gross misconduct, but state that it is non-exhaustive as you cannot provide for every eventuality. Each case should be looked at individually and consideration should be given to all the circumstances.

What procedure should I go through if someone has committed gross misconduct? When disciplining an employee you should follow your own disciplinary procedure and the Acas Code of Practice. If you don’t follow the Code it may render a dismissal unfair and could increase the amount of compensation an employment tribunal awards against you.

If you believe an employee has committed gross misconduct, you may need to suspend them to allow a full investigation to take place. This won’t be necessary in all cases, but it will usually be appropriate in cases of serious misconduct. If an employee is suspended it should be on full pay.

Carry out a fair and balanced investigation. At the end of it you may decide that no further action is necessary. However, if matters are to be taken further the employee should be invited to a disciplinary hearing where they will be given the opportunity to state their case and respond to the allegations against them. The hearing should then be adjourned for you to make your decision. You should notify the employee of your decision in writing and inform them of their right of appeal.

How can I decide if something counts as gross misconduct or not?  
If you’re unsure, get legal advice. In any case, if an incident is not obviously gross misconduct, it’s always better to go for the lesser sanction than to dismiss someone as such a dismissal may be held unfair. The current maximum compensation for unfair dismissal is £74,200.

If you need any more advice about identifying or dealing with gross misconduct, please do get in touch, to make sure you can avoid and tricky situations.

How Can I Sack Someone Legally?

This is a question I’ve been asked recently. It’s easy to fire someone, but not so easy to do it without getting into trouble, so here are some tips for sacking staff legally.

1. When you fire an employee, remember the three essential steps

First, invite the employee to a meeting with you. Make sure they realise it’s a disciplinary meeting, not a chat about the weather. Second, let them have their say. Take notes and record how long it lasts so you can prove it wasn’t rushed. Third, ask a senior manager to review your initial decision – you need an impartial opinion. If you fail to follow any of these steps, the dismissal is unfair and could go to a tribunal.

2. Fire employees consistently

Last year, you discovered that someone in your sales department had been colluding with a rival. You gave him a warning. A few months ago, you found out that another salesman was doing the same thing. You sacked her. Watch out – if you behave inconsistently, you won’t have a leg to stand on in court.

3. Take your time and don’t rush into firing anyone

Don’t ambush a member of staff with an allegation and fire them on the spot. Notice of a disciplinary hearing must be given at least 24 hours before the meeting.

4. Be wary of sexual discrimination

Dismissing or demoting a pregnant employee (or woman on maternity leave) can lead to problems. It can be considered as sexual discrimination, even if you believe you have a strong case for sacking her. Make sure you get the legal issues right.

5. – and other minority groups

Regardless of length of service, i’?s unlawful to dismiss an employee on these grounds: sex or marital status; colour; race; nationality or ethnic origins; physical or mental disability; sexual orientation; religion.

6. Record everything

Companies get into legal hot water by forgetting to record things like verbal warnings. Make employees sign a form to say that they’re aware of the action taken against them and agree that it’s fair. Don’t let anything slip by undocumented.

If you need to sack someone, follow these steps carefully. Get some advice before you rush into doing anything and you’ll avoid costly problems.

How to Improve Employee Retention

Employee retention is about keeping the great staff you have, once you’ve found them.  There are a number of factors that have an impact on improving staff retention, including:

  • Improving communication processes
  • Staff involvement
  • Confident senior and line managers with strategic direction for your organisation
  • Providing training and development opportunities
  • Market-aligned pay and benefits
  • Fair and effective management of staff by managers
  • Competence of line management.

Focus on improving these areas and you will be able to improve your employee retention. But don’t get complacent – there are many threats to retention. What might cause your employees to leave? They include:

  • Re-organisation of your company – particularly if staff are not consulted
  • Redundancies – people can lose morale when others leave
  • Recruitment freezes – this could be a sign that the business is not going places
  • Lack of confidence in management – if you people don’t have confidence in their managers they may not stay
  • Line manager incompetence ‘ your line managers may not have the skills to keep your staff!

What’s the biggest threat to employee retention? It is poor employee engagement. Work on improving your employee engagement and high employee retention will follow.

For more on employee retention, click here to watch a short video.