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What is Gross Misconduct and How to Manage It

Gross misconduct refers to certain acts or behaviours on the part of an employee that could result in the immediate termination of their employment. 

There are a wide variety of acts and behaviours that can constitute gross misconduct, with most involving a serious breach of a company’s policies in one way or another. Another way to describe gross misconduct is any act or behaviour that creates an irreparable breakdown in the relationship between employer and employee. Such incidents will often result in instant or summary dismissal without notice and without pay in lieu of notice.

Some incidents may require an investigation, with the employee in question being suspended on full or partial pay while the evidence is examined.  The UK has laws on managing gross misconduct, but companies should always obtain legal advice on how to proceed. 

Difference between gross misconduct and misconduct

There are key differences between what constitutes gross misconduct and the lesser charge of misconduct.

Misconduct generally involves incidents or behaviour that do not immediately result in irreparable damage to either the company or your relationship with the employee. Examples of misconduct include lateness, insubordination, or poor performance.

Gross misconduct involves a severe incident that places the company at risk of financial or reputational loss, as well as behaviour that negatively affects the workplace including other employees and any relevant health and safety standards. The likes of harassment, bullying and assault are considered gross misconduct, as is theft or the leaking of sensitive information.

More extreme examples of gross misconduct include indecent or immoral behaviour at the workplace, acts of violence or dangerous horseplay, incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol, and the use, possession or supply of illegal drugs.

Setting gross misconduct parameters

An act of gross misconduct means the employee can be summarily dismissed without notice, although they have the right to defend themselves in a disciplinary hearing or appeal via tribunal. 

Knowing that an appeal is possible makes it extremely important to set out your company’s parameters for gross misconduct in a disciplinary code that must be adhered to according to the contracts of all employees. This not only informs every employee of what behaviour is expected from them, but gives you the employer a firm footing when it comes to dealing with any appeals against a dismissal for gross misconduct.

If the behaviour is explicitly outlined in your company’s disciplinary code, you can use this as a strong defence of any decision to dismiss an employee on the grounds of gross misconduct.

Managing a gross misconduct incident

As the employer, you will not always be witness to the gross misconduct in question and will have to rely on the testimony of others. While some cases will be clear cut, such as acts of violence, others such as business fraud may require some investigation and the gathering of facts and witness statements.

When an allegation of gross misconduct has been made but the full story cannot be immediately ascertained, it is proper practice to suspend the employee in question on full pay while the investigation is carried out. It should be made clear to the employee that the suspension is not a punishment or sanction, but a necessary part of a fair investigation.

You must then gather the facts. If any facts support the allegation then the employee is invited in writing to a disciplinary hearing. The invitation must detail what the allegation involves, as well as any rights to representation the employee has.

The hearing should have a chairperson and someone to take the minutes. All evidence should be explained clearly and their sources made transparent, with the employee given a chance to respond. No final decision is to be taken during the hearing.

The final decision will be taken after the hearing. Other than dismissal, disciplinary options may include demotion or a final letter of warning.

We can help

Managing gross misconduct situations can be stressful and time-consuming, so talk to our experts for advice. And find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments to free up your valuable time to take care of any and all issues that affect your business and its daily operations.

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GoCardless (company registration number 07495895) is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Services Regulations 2017, registration number 597190, for the provision of payment services. GoCardless SAS (23-25 Avenue Mac-Mahon, Paris, 75017, France), an affiliate of GoCardless Ltd (company registration number 834 422 180, R.C.S. PARIS), is authorised by the ACPR (French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority), Bank Code (CIB) 17118, for the provision of payment services.