Your All-Important Guide to Dealing with Gross Misconduct in the Workplace

Gross misconduct is a serious act – it’s behaviour so bad that it can potentially destroy the relationship between employer and employee, as it is a serious breach of contract. It usually, but not always, results in dismissal. However, just because it happened doesn’t mean one can take the matter in a simple way; in fact, officially it hasn’t happened until there is sufficient proof to indicate so.

Stealing, hitting, or other types of violence are just some examples. Here’s the tricky part: you need to be sure that the legal blame is indeed placed on the employee, and that can only be established by following careful procedure. Here’s your all-important guide to dealing with gross misconduct in the workplace.

What constitutes gross misconduct?

Gross misconduct can come in many forms, and there can be many causes. Here are just some examples:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism or destruction of property
  • Violence
  • Bullying
  • Damaging the company’s reputation
  • Accessing pornographic materials on work premises
  • Clear breach of procedures
  • Dangerous or reckless behaviour
  • Inability to work due to alcohol or drugs
  • Neglect of duty
  • Not following instructions
  • And so on

Should my employees know this?

Whilst all these offenses should not necessarily be mentioned in the contract, it’s advised that the employees sign a receipt for a booklet or manual in which these offenses are all described. Make it clear, however, that the above-mentioned items are simply examples, and that the list is not exhaustive. Also make clear that they are causes for dismissal after previous warnings.

What’s the procedure?

Every company should have its own code in dealing with gross misconduct – and this procedure should be explained to the employee. This procedure should never be breached; otherwise it calls into question the fairness and legitimacy of the dismissal or other disciplinary actions.

Getting legal advice

The procedures that are implemented should always be legal, and the interviews and investigation should all proceed in an ethical manner – they should be recorded and then transcribed by a professional transcription company, such as In order to be sure everything happens in a legal way, it’s advised that the company seek legal advice whilst developing the company code and gross misconduct procedures.

There are, of course, alternatives to dismissal; if it can be shown (if the evidence points in this direction) that the charge can be reduced from gross misconduct to misconduct, there may be other avenues to explore. However, understand that it is not just a matter of being able to settle things between employer and employee but also on establishing a procedure that ensures future relationships are going to be better – and this involves all staff members and company employees. Handle this issue with care; a lot depends on it.


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