Unravelling Workplace Misconduct: From Minor Incidents to Gross Breaches - How to Address it Appropriately

Workplace Misconduct Unravelled: From Minor Incidents to Gross Breaches – How to Address it Appropriately

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Written by: SafeWorkforce
13th July

Misconduct in the workplace

Misconduct is behaviour that is inappropriate for the workplace.  It falls into 2 categories and will range from minor issues (misconduct) to serious breaches of company policy (gross misconduct).  Both types are a problem for employers, however gross misconduct could lead to serious disciplinary action such as dismissal.

To appropriately deal with workplace misconduct, you will need to understand what qualifies as misconduct and gross misconduct and how best to address such behaviour.  This is where your code of conduct is crucial in setting out the standards required of your employees.  By defining these standards within your code of conduct or handbook, you’ll be able to identify where breaches have occurred and be able to act swiftly.

Some examples of misconduct in the workplace might include insubordination, tardiness or absences, inappropriate or rude comments to co-workers or customers. General misconduct is usually unintentional, not malicious, has limited effects on other people and can be handled through your disciplinary procedures.

Whereas more serious conduct issues, known as gross misconduct might include things like theft, physical violence, gross negligence, drug and alcohol abuse, serious insubordination, discrimination and bullying and harassment.  With gross misconduct, you can dismiss the employee immediately without having to have issued previous formal warnings as long as you follow a fair procedure.  This is known as summary dismissal.

How to address workplace misconduct

Resolving misconduct is essential for managers to ensure that staff are treated fairly and that the company’s values are being upheld and respected.

Once workplace conduct has been identified, it’s important to ensure the matter is addressed immediately.  Putting off the issue won’t make the matter go away and it may only cause later issues down the line.

If you are intending to address an employee’s conduct through a disciplinary process, the first thing to be aware of is that all employers are required to follow a full and fair procedure in line with the Acas Code of Practice.  This sets out the minimum standard of fairness that employers should meet when handling disciplinary matters.  They are used by employment tribunals when deciding on relevant cases.

If an employee goes on to make a claim at an employment tribunal, the first thing the tribunal will do is to look at the procedure followed by the employer.  Tribunals can increase the pay out by up to 25% if they find the employer has failed to comply with the principles of the code.  Conversely, if the tribunal feel the employee has unreasonably failed to follow the guidance set out in the code they can reduce any award made by 25%.

Where disciplinary action is considered

Employers and employees should always in the first instance seek to resolve disciplinary issues informally before needing to take formal action and often a quiet word is all that is required to resolve an issue, however where this has failed, the behaviour has continued or the matter is seriousness enough to constitute gross misconduct, the key areas below should be followed when handling disciplinary issues in the workplace:

The Acas code of practice also covers handling grievance procedures and you may also need separate procedures for dealing with bullying, harassment or whistleblowing.

At SafeWorkforce we’re able to offer you an outsourcing service for your Human Resource needs so that you get:

  • Specialist guidance from our experts.
  • Supporting you in becoming legal and compliant.
  • A tailored approach that suits your business.

To speak to a member of the team, get in touch on 0333 355 9140 opt.4 or make an enquiry.