How To Handle Serious or Gross Misconduct At Work – Part 1

Gross misconduct in the workplace is behaviour that is so serious it can result in suspension and dismissal. It is often seen as a breach of the trust, rights and obligations between employer and employee. Therefore, it is important for employers to thoroughly understand gross misconduct meaning and how to deal with it effectively when it arises. This includes having comprehensive policies and procedures in place that outline clearly what gross misconduct involves and the processes for dealing with it.

As an employer, you should be consistent yet balanced in your approach, always aiming to ensure fair outcomes and take into account any mitigating factors. By doing this, you will be better equipped to handle gross misconduct situations if they should arise.

What is Gross Misconduct?

Gross misconduct is a serious form of misconduct which can result in severe disciplinary action or even dismissal. It encompasses activities that are considered unacceptable, illegal or damaging to an employer’s interests and integrity. Some common examples of gross misconduct include:

  • Offensive or violent behaviour: this includes aggressive or intimidating behaviour, bullying, harassment, violence between employees or threats.

  • Fraud: this includes things like forging documents or altering numbers for personal gain.

  • Theft: this could include stealing money or property from the company.

  • Breaching confidentiality: this includes divulging confidential information outside of the company.

  • Using drugs or alcohol while at work: this could result in the inability to work effectively, and may include illegal activity.

  • Wilful property damage: this includes deliberately damaging company property or damaging through negligence.

  • Gross negligence: this includes a serious lack of care which has endangered those around you or impacted the company’s reputation.

  • Serious insubordination: this includes the refusal to follow management requests leading to a serious breakdown of trust.

Similarly, breaching a company’s health and safety regulations and procedures could also result in accusations of gross misconduct as these are usually egregious acts of carelessness or disregard for the well-being of others. In all these instances, employers should look to use appropriate disciplinary action but may also want to get outside legal advice about their rights and obligations as an employer when dealing with such cases.


Misconduct vs Gross Misconduct

Misconduct and gross misconduct in the workplace are distinct offenses with different implications. Misconduct is typically defined as behaviour that is contrary to the rules, regulations and policies of the organization or behaviour that demonstrates a disregard for acceptable standards of conduct, for example, consistent lateness.

Gross misconduct, on the other hand, refers to serious offenses such as illegal actions or a breach of trust that have significant consequences for the employee and organization. As such, a company may need to take disciplinary action more severe than with regular misconduct including termination of employment in instances of gross misconduct. It is important that employees understand the differences between these two types of offenses so they can make sure their behaviour meets expectations at work.

Can Constant Misconduct Amount to Gross Misconduct?

Constant acts of misconduct can definitely amount to gross misconduct when it becomes habitual. This is because an accumulation of minor transgressions shows a repeated disregard for the company’s policies, procedures and protocols.

It is important for companies to monitor minor misconduct on the part of their employees carefully so that any patterns are identified before they become serious enough to be classified as gross misconduct. This monitoring then allows employers to provide clear disciplinary warnings and swift action before matters escalate. Furthermore, effective training and communication are essential so that all staff members know what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in the workplace.

Is Gross Misconduct Outlined in Employee Contracts?

Employee contracts in many companies outline expectations of behaviour to ensure a safe, productive working environment. This can include specific rules and regulations relating to conduct, such as how employees are to interact with each other or whether they need to reach particular performance goals. In some cases, the contract may even spell out what is considered a form of ‘gross misconduct’ that warrants serious disciplinary action such as expulsion from the job.

If you are an employer, it is a good idea to identify what constitutes gross misconduct in your employee contracts, as this will ensure you are covered should any cases arise. We will cover disciplinary procedures and hearings in the second part of this article.

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