Types of Misconduct

Published 2 September 10

Defining 'misconduct'

It is appropriate to categorise disciplinary issues as either performance or conduct-related. Issues relating to bad conduct within the workplace are likely to arise from problems with:

  • Persistent bad timekeeping .
  • Health and safety issues.
  • The wilful failure to follow management instructions or guidelines.
  • Smoking in the workplace, or consumption of alcohol or drugs.
  • Mistreatment of livestock.
  • The use of company facilities and equipment for personal reasons in work time.

Stipulated examples of gross misconduct so serious that dismissal without notice may be justified might include:

  • Discrimination, bullying and harassment.
  • Drunkenness.
  • Fighting at work.
  • Fraud.
  • Gross negligence or insubordination.
  • Serious breaches of health and safety protocol.
  • Theft.
  • Serious wilful damage to property or livestock.
  • The use of the internet to access pornographic, obscene or offensive material.

It is important not to dismiss someone merely because they have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offence. It is essential to investigate what action is justified and consider whether it affects the employee's suitability to continue working. Normal disciplinary procedure should be used wherever possible, and appropriate, fair and reasonable disciplinary action should be taken even if the outcome of the prosecution is pending.

Depending upon the severity and persistency of the misconduct, the employee's previous record and any contractual stipulations or limitations, several potential disciplinary options present themselves:

  • The matter could be dropped with no further action.
  • A further written warning (or a final written warning) could be issued.
  • Training or counselling could be provided to help resolve the matter.
  • Any bonuses could be withheld, as a form of fine.
  • The employee could be demoted or transferred to another job.
  • The employee could be suspended without pay (uncommon as both parties are inconvenienced).
  • The most severe penalty is dismissal. Normally this should only be done if clear warnings have previously been issued, having made it clear to the employee that lack of improvement in conduct or performance would result in dismissal.

In instances of gross misconduct it may be possible to dismiss immediately without giving notice or pay in lieu of notice. However, it would be advisable only to summarily dismiss employees if potential examples of gross misconduct leading to dismissal are included in the Contract of Employment.

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