What is gross misconduct?

1st April 2020 2 min read Chris McAvoy

You have very probably heard the terms “gross misconduct” or “summary dismissal” before, but like most people, you probably a little  unsure as to what they actually mean. You may also not know how findings of gross misconduct interact with the law surrounding unfair dismissal. This is quite understandable as most people unfortunately find they learn this on a ‘need to know’ basis. The answer is frustratingly not straightforwar.


Onus is on the employer

If an employer reasonably and genuinely believes that an employee is guilty of gross misconduct (and if they have reasonable grounds on which to base this belief, having carried out a reasonable investigation beforehand), an employer can potentially fairly dismiss an employee without notice, for gross misconduct. 

However, this is not necessarily the end of the road for the dismissed employee.  Unless an Employment Tribunal finds, on a balance of probabilities, that the employee did in fact commit gross misconduct, the employee’s dismissal may be wrongful, entitling the employee to be paid their notice pay. 


So, what is gross misconduct? 

Despite there being no clear-cut legal definition of gross misconduct, it is well recognised that, subject to the below point, the misconduct must be deliberate and considered so serious that it “undermines the relationship of trust and confidence between the employer and employee. 

If it is not deliberate wrongdoing, it must be serious negligence. It includes, but is in no way limited to: theft, fraud, physical violence and discrimination. Employers are encouraged to provide clear examples of gross misconduct in their disciplinary policy but do not always do so.

People LegalIf you, as either an employee or an employer, have any questions about gross misconduct allegations, please let us know. You may be an employee looking for advice about a wrongful dismissal claim or an employer considering revisions to your disciplinary policy. Please call us on 0800 368 8470, email us at [email protected] or arrange a chat at