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.