Gross misconduct is when an employee commits a serious act that immediately destroys your working relationship with them. If this happens, you can consider summarily dismissing the employee without notice, but you must also make sure you follow a proper disciplinary procedure, or you could be faced with an unfair dismissal claim.
It’s best practice to define what counts as gross misconduct within an individual’s employment contract or your disciplinary policy. This will set clear expectations of how staff should behave, and what will happen if they breach your company policies.
Many employers are unsure of what actually constitutes gross misconduct, so we’ve put together some examples to help you identify when an employee may have crossed the line.
Gross misconduct can be broken down into five categories:
- Theft or damage
- Offensive behaviour
- Health and safety breaches
- Substance misuse
In this guide we’ll go into further detail about what these categories cover, and how they can negatively affect your business.
Gross misconduct examples
1. Theft or damage
If an employee steals or causes damage to company property, whether deliberately or through negligence, this can constitute gross misconduct. Company property could mean the building itself, office equipment, company stock or cash. Theft or damage of a colleague’s belongings can also be considered.
This type of behaviour could prove very costly to your company if you need to repair or replace any equipment, as well as potentially affecting your relationship with suppliers or other employees if it is their belongings which are damaged.
Not only is fraud a breach of the law, but it can also cause significant financial damage to your company and impact its reputation. Fraudulent activities could include obtaining and distributing sensitive data, making false expense claims or accepting bribes from clients.
This behaviour will destroy the trust between you and your employee and could potentially lead to a criminal case. A summary dismissal is the likely result, as cases of fraud can impact company finances and destroy relationships with customers.
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3. Offensive behaviour
Whether directed towards yourself, other staff members or customers, offensive behaviour is an awful thing to experience at work. Some examples are:
- Sexual harassment
- Aggressive behaviour
- Making threats
If an employee does any of the above, it will very likely create a negative and uncomfortable atmosphere in the office and may even lead to other team members taking time off to avoid the individual. This will impact overall productivity and performance within your business.
For this reason, offensive behaviour should be dealt with quickly and effectively by starting a disciplinary procedure, in order to minimise damage and protect the safety of employees and customers.
4. Health and safety breaches
Staff who refuse to comply with health and safety rules or who are simply negligent can prove a huge liability for employers. Actions such as not wearing protective gear, dangerous driving or not paying attention not only puts the employee themselves and those around them at risk, but it could leave you open to time-consuming tribunal claims.
5. Substance misuse
An employee with a drinking problem or who uses drugs can pose various problems for you as an employer. If they’re under the influence while at work, they could put themselves or other people in danger, or damage relationships with customers.
If it’s a case of an employee taking drugs at work, or buying and selling them on the premises, then you may also need to consider police involvement.
To sum up
Although some of the above examples may seem like obvious cases of gross misconduct, other cases are not as clear. That’s why it’s important to seek expert advice before launching immediately into a summary dismissal, to protect yourself and your business from tribunal claims.
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