Exit sign dealing with gross misconduct
Dealing with gross misconduct
Posted by Stuart Falconer • September 15, 2021

Hopefully, you’ll never have to handle gross misconduct in your business. It’s not a matter of luck though – if you’ve got the right processes in place and your employees know the standards of behaviour expected of them, you can mitigate against the risk. However, if you do find yourself dealing with gross misconduct in the workplace, would you know what to do? This blog will run you through the steps.

What is gross misconduct?

Gross misconduct is when an employee commits an offence deemed so serious that the only appropriate sanction would be summary dismissal. This could include theft, fraud, sexual harassment, physical violence or a serious dereliction of their duties.

Sack them on the spot! Right?

Wrong. Regardless of the allegation, you have an obligation to follow a fair procedure, otherwise everyone would just sack someone right there on the spot. Believe me, it happens! Regardless of how guilty someone might seem, it simply isn’t fair to sack them without following a fair procedure.

Before you do anything . . .

When dealing with gross misconduct, is the presence of the employee in their role a continued risk for the business? If they have been accused of sexual harassment or theft or bullying, is it reasonable to keep them working in the same role? It may be appropriate to suspend them pending the outcome of the investigation. If you do decide to suspend them, then confirm in writing and ensure the length of suspension is clearly stated.

What is fair procedure?

Let’s look at the recommended steps:

1. Investigate

The investigation should cover anything to do with the allegation. Appoint an investigator and give them a remit. For example: ‘This is what I want you to investigate. Someone has made a complaint / OR there’s cash missing / OR we’ve got CCTV footage of someone behaving badly in the workplace. There’s your remit, now go and find out what you can.’

Investigating may mean interviewing witnesses, reading emails or referencing documentation. Simply find as much information relevant to the incident or allegation as you can.

We all fancy ourselves as a bit of a Sherlock Holmes, don’t we? When undertaking an investigation myself, I give myself two remits:

  • Investigate the allegation
  • Establish what could have been done differently – this is so you can avoid the situation happening again.

The investigation and its outcome give you the opportunity to improve your internal processes. Being proactive is preferable to facing another gross misconduct issue further down the line, right?

2. Invite the employee to the hearing

Make sure the employee has all the information from the investigation. After all, this is the information you’ll be using to make a decision. Make sure they also know that they have the right to be accompanied by a union representative or a work colleague. Give the employee appropriate notice of the hearing: the law says two days but you could give more. At the end of the day, you want to appear reasonable!

3. Conduct the hearing

Depending on the size of your business, it may be appropriate for the same person to conduct the investigation AND the disciplinary hearing. However, if at all possible, try to have different people conduct the two parts of the process. This way you can ensure impartiality. Avoid anything silly, for example, I’ve seen managers who were witnesses conduct the hearing. How can that be fair or reasonable? Go through all the evidence, giving the employee the opportunity to question and state their case. Adjourn to consider your decision. If you consider the employee guilty, then dismiss with no notice and confirm in writing.

4. Give them the right to appeal

This is VERY IMPORTANT when dealing with gross misconduct. If you don’t give them this opportunity, then it’s automatically unfair!

Keep it simple

Dealing with gross misconduct is not easy and can be stressful for all parties involved. However, it is a simple process if you follow all the steps correctly so that you are fair and reasonable.

If you’ve got questions about handling any kind of misconduct in your workplace, Morgan Thomson are here to support you. Email Stuart at stuart.falconer@morganthomsonhr.co.uk or call for a chat: 0345 095 0139.