Gross Misconduct Meaning & Examples

Caragh Bailey
6 min read
Gross Misconduct from Employment Law Friend

What is considered gross misconduct at work?

Misconduct is when your behaviour breaks workplace rules. This might be a rule that is specified in your contract of employment, company policies, or an implied rule. For example, even if it is not explicitly banned in your contract, you would still expect to get in trouble if you hit a colleague.

Gross misconduct is any behaviour which is so serious that your employer can dismiss you instantly. This may include incidents outside of work, especially if they reflect badly on the company.

What is the difference between misconduct and gross misconduct?

One off incident
If you are otherwise a good employee and have no other disciplinary incidents on your record this will likely be solved by an informal discussion with your boss.

You may be issued with an informal warning or verbal warning.
Issues such as repeated lateness, unauthorised absence, minor errors.
Your employer must:
    Call a meeting to discuss your misconduct. Here you have a chance to explain your reasons for breaching your employment contract, and/or ask for reasonable support to meet the terms of your contract.
    • issue you with a first written warning if they are not satisfied with your explanation.
    • Set out what they expect you to change, and over what length of time.
    • Warn you that if these improvements are not made, you will receive a final written warning.

      Call a second meeting if your performance or behaviour has not improved enough in the time agreed. (Again you have a chance to explain.)
    • Issue a final written warning if your reasons are not satisfactory
    • Set a new time by which they expect to see the improvement.
    • Warn you that if you fail again, you may be dismissed (fired.)

      Call a third meeting if you are still failing to meet the terms of your contract.
    • Warn you that you may face dismissal
    • At this stage you may choose to appeal.

      Tell you if they are dismissing you, or if they are going to give you another chance.
Serious Misconduct
If your breach of contract is serious enough to have caused serious harm to the organisation.
For example: loss of revenue (income) - maybe you made a mistake while filing your expenses, costing your employers significant money.
Or: serious damage to the brand/image (making them look bad.) - maybe your activity on social media is seriously damaging to the public image of your place of work.
Your employer must:
  • issue you with one first and final warning.
  • explain that you may face dismissal if the issue continues.

Gross misconduct
Gross misconduct is any behaviour which is so bad that your employer can dismiss you instantly, without notice or pay in lieu of notice.

Such as: theft, criminal behaviour, physical violence, gross negligence (deciding to ignore your duty to use reasonable care, which has, or might result in causing harm to people or property.)

What are examples of gross misconduct?

Your employer might have their own sackable offences list. Here are some general examples of instant dismissal offences:
  • Fraud - You fabricate receipts of false work expenses to get money from your employer
  • Physical violence - You lose your temper at work and physically attack or intimidate another employee
  • Gross negligence (serious lack of care to duties or others' safety) - You accidentally damage the flooring on the stairs and fail to report it. Another employee trips and breaks their wrist as a result
  • Serious insubordination (refusing to follow orders) - You are asked to handle some tasks independently, you do not fulfil these tasks.
  • Criminal acts - Such as theft

Do employers have to prove gross misconduct?

Your employer must carry out an investigation if there is doubt over whether you are guilty. They must follow the Acas code of practise on disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as any company procedure on the matter. If they fail to follow correct procedure, you might be able to bring a claim against them for wrongful dismissal.

Even if they can prove it, it is important that they treat you fairly. If you were sacked for gross misconduct and someone else was given a warning for the same act, you might be able to bring a claim against your employer for unfair dismissal.

Appealing gross misconduct

If you've been falsely accused of gross misconduct or serious misconduct, you can appeal to your employer. You should do this in writing and include any reasons you want them to reconsider, for example:
  • The investigation was not carried out thoroughly
  • The investigator was biased against you
  • New evidence has become available

Frequently Asked Questions
If you have been sacked for gross misconduct, your employer does not have to let you work your notice period, or pay you in lieu of notice. However, they must pay you any outstanding wages, including holiday pay.
Insubordination is a refusal to follow orders. This may mount to a breach of contract. It becomes serious insubordination or gross insubordination when it breaks any trust or confidence between you and your employer. It might be rude, aggressive or threatening.
If you're asked to do something illegal, do not do it. You will be liable for breaking the law. If your employer tries to discipline you for gross misconduct, because you refused to do something illegal when asked our employment solicitors can help.

If your employer ask or expects you to do something which is unethical or illegal, you can report this under whistleblower protection, if it is in the public interest to do so.

If you are asked to do something that contradicts your personal beliefs you may be able to refuse on the grounds of religious or philosophical belief. This will depend on your belief and how essential the task you've been asked to do is to your job role.
For example: Some supermarkets place people whose religious beliefs prohibit them from handling certain meats or alcohol in roles where they can completely avoid this. Other supermarkets expect their staff to handle all produce as it's an essential part of the job, but people whose beliefs contradict this are provided with gloves or paper towels so that they do not have any direct contact with the items.

If you are being disciplined for gross misconduct as a result of refusing to do something that contradicts your religious or philosophical beliefs tell us about your case.

Have you been falsely accused of gross misconduct? Has your disciplinary or dismissal been mishandled?

There is much more to winning your case than simply being in the right, our specialist employment solicitors know all the laws and tactics, to make sure you get the best chance at a fair settlement. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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