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Misconduct is behaviour that is not acceptable at work. Unlike performance, it’s usually something well inside the employee’s control, and that they are aware of—even if they don’t recognise it as misconduct.

Examples of misconduct include:

  • Misuse of computers
  • Lateness
  • Poor presentation
  • Unexplained absences
  • Inappropriate behaviour with other employees that affects their job
  • Abusive behaviour
  • Leaking confidential documents or information
  • Drinking or drug abuse at work
  • Corruption

It’s important to bring the behaviour to your employee’s attention as soon as possible when a situation of misconduct arises. They may or may not be aware that what they’re doing is inappropriate.

When the behaviour is not already listed in the staff handbook as misconduct, make sure you add it, and ensure all staff are aware of the update. If the behaviour continues it’s important to handle the situation appropriately: employees must be given a warning, and warned in writing at least once. If the behaviour is such that it warrants dismissal, this must be outlined clearly in the written warning letter.

Warning letters

If misconduct continues after a verbal warning has issued, a letter is the next step. This is not a legal requirement, however, if things escalate to dismissal, a written warning showing that an employee had the rules and the situation clearly explained to them, and that they had been given ample opportunity to address their conduct, can save you from any potential unfair dismissal claim.

A warning letter should include as much specific detail as possible, including a timeline of events (if appropriate), the reason for the warning, and a clear explanation of what you expect to be done differently.

If the misconduct continues, further written warnings can be issued. Assurance HR can provide templates for written warning letters, and, if need arises, can attend meetings with staff as an impartial third party to address misconduct.

It’s worth noting that even if a behaviour isn’t serious in nature in and of itself (such as sloppy dressing when there’s an express dress code or uniform), if left unaddressed can have negative consequences, and hurt your business over time through undermining of leadership and poor representation of your business culture.

Serious misconduct

In some cases negative behaviour can be so severe that it may warrant instant dismissal. This is known as serious misconduct. The Fair Work Regulations define serious misconduct as behaviour that could cause serious and imminent risk to the reputation or profits of the business or health and safety of another person, or is deliberate behaviour inconsistent with continuing the employment. Usually, it means theft, fraud, assault, or intoxication at work, or refusing to carry out a lawful and reasonable instruction that is part of the job.

Your employee handbook should have a list of behaviour recognised as serious misconduct, with a warning of the disciplinary action that will be taken in such a case.

Still not sure what you can do? Give Assurance HR a call. We can talk you through your rights and responsibilities as an employer, and how best to handle your particular situation to achieve the best outcome possible. Talk to us today, 1800 577 515.

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