How should you define misconduct in your workplace?

Clear guidelines in your staff handbook help communicate expected behavior and consequences for violations. Differentiate between ordinary misconduct and gross misconduct, which may lead to immediate termination.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Have a quick question? I answered nearly 1500 FAQs.


Every now and again, one of your staff members may act in a way that violates company policies.

By outlining your expectations for appropriate behavior in your staff handbook and employment contracts, you can clearly communicate to your workers what you anticipate from them.

It is important to clarify to your staff in these materials that the behaviors you identify are not exhaustive. If they violate your guidelines, though, there are repercussions.

However, it’s regrettable given that a worker will inevitably violate your policies at some point.

So what should you do in such a situation? Let’s examine this.

Gross & ordinary misconduct

What distinguishes misconduct from gross (serious) misbehavior, to start with?

Since this article’s main topic is misconduct, let’s start there. It is the situation in which an employer-employee relationship is weakened. It isn’t enough, though, to make you fired.

However, consider it significant enough that it might be grounds for termination.

There’s gross misconduct in contrast. Here is when a major infraction of your job’s policies may result in an immediate termination.

What constitutes workplace misconduct?

Is there a meaning to misconduct? You could define misconduct from a legal perspective with respect to violations of your regulations and rules.

Due to the fact that excessive misconduct is far more serious, your company must determine what activity is suitable or what might be considered minor misconduct.

Obviously, proper employee behavior is crucial to your everyday business. Employees should adhere to the clothing code, be punctual, and show consideration for company policies.

But things don’t always work out as planned.

In the event that you encounter improper behavior from an employee, it’s crucial to keep in mind that it may be a purposeful act.

Misconduct can generally be defined as worker conduct that you deem inappropriate.

However, the very essence of what’s entailed makes defining misconduct more difficult. What does a varied range of possibly damaging situations mean?

What behaviors at work are deemed misconduct?

What constitutes employee misconduct is a frequently asked question.

Usually, this kind of behavior is classified as incompetence, improper actions, or subpar performance.

Examples of misconduct are listed below:

  • Harm to the things you own.
  • Turning adversarial towards fellow workers.
  • Theft or deception.

Additionally, bear in mind certain behaviors that might not qualify as misconduct. For example, awkwardness and fights (among coworkers or between yourself and your worker).

While this may not be precisely what you would like your employees to be carrying out, it is not a sufficiently grave offense to justify a significant contract violation.

How to manage misconduct

How do you make sure that your employees receive suitable punishment while keeping the aforementioned concerns in mind?

Managers and staff may be under a great deal of stress in this potentially very unpleasant scenario for your company. It is therefore crucial to handle such situations with caution.

Your disciplinary policies should generally address the following:

  • Presenteeism/Absenteeism
  • Safety and health.
  • Appropriate internet and computer use.

In the event that your protocols are violated, there is no legal framework in place to conduct a probe or call a disciplinary session.

Understanding this can be aided by consulting Acas’s Code of Practice. Although it is not mandatory to abide by their suggestions, keep in mind that tribunals consider them when evaluating pertinent instances.

Workers are entitled by law to accompaniment, and they may do so with a coworker or a representative of their trade union.

Just keep in mind that many misconduct problems can be resolved with a quick conversation or several written or verbal warnings prior to taking significant action.

But in case of a significant violation, you ought to take official measures like conducting a comprehensive inquiry. If needed, you have the option to suspend your employee during this period.

Common Questions Regarding Misconduct

We respond to several of the frequently asked questions our clients have about misconduct below.

1. What distinguishes gross misconduct from serious misconduct?

An employee may be fired for gross misconduct if it is the very first incident.

Giving a worker another chance is more probable to occur in cases of serious misconduct. A few instances of serious misconduct are:

  • Being late
  • Low quality of job
  • Misuse of computers, email, hardware, and the internet

Examples of gross misconduct could be:

  • Theft
  • Violence
  • Fraud

Ensure that you are aware of whether a worker’s actions qualify as gross misconduct.

2. Which actions are deemed indicative of a hostile workplace?

For there to be hostility at work, a worker must discriminate against a group of individuals. These groups might consist of, for instance:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability

It may turn into a hostile working atmosphere if the behavior gets bad enough. This could be considered harsh or intimidating as well.

3. What are Workplace Sackable Offenses?

At-work Sackable Offenses include:

  • Threats or acts of physical violence at work
  • Harassment or discrimination
  • Drug possession
  • Workplace theft, dishonesty, or fraud

Depending on the circumstances, an infraction may be reported for termination.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

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