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Employee Misconduct

What is misconduct in the workplace Australia?

Misconduct is when an employee partakes in behaviour that is out of line with company policy, goes against the terms of an employment agreement, or is unlawful.

What are the types of misconduct?

There are two types of misconduct to be aware of:

1) general misconduct
2) gross misconduct (or serious misconduct)

The distinction between the two is important as that will impact the type of disciplinary procedure the employer exercises.

What is general misconduct?

General misconduct is not an intentional act to harm the company or another person. This means that there is a possibility that the employee behaved in a particular manner that falls within the umbrella of ‘misconduct’ but was not aware of it – it was unintentional.

What constitutes gross misconduct?

Gross or serious misconduct, however, has intent. It is a premeditated act to harm the company or another person. In most cases, an act of gross misconduct is enough to justify grounds for immediate dismissal. Of course, you must have evidence to prove this and be consistent in how you respond to an act of gross misconduct.

To reduce the risk of confusion or misunderstanding, be sure to include an employee misconduct policy in your handbook and agreements. This should include relevant examples and precise disciplinary procedures.

Workplace misconduct examples

Misconduct in the workplace can present itself in multiple ways – some acts are easier to identify than others. It is important to be vigilant and address acts of misconduct early, before it escalates.

Below are some common examples of misconduct in the workplace:

  • misuse of computers
  • frequently late
  • unexplained absences
  • failing to meet performance standards
  • poor presentation – such as not grooming, wearing unclean clothes
  • making personal calls on the company phone
  • inappropriate behaviour with other employees that impacts work

The degree of misconduct depends on the industry, business, and nature of the role. For example, an employee hired to oversee social media management will be on social media for majority of their day. This, however, will not be the case for their colleagues. So, while there are clear examples of misconduct, there are also exceptions that require a discerning approach.

Steps in a disciplinary procedure

Below is a general guideline that employers should follow to ensure disciplinary meetings are handled systematically and properly.

1. Arrange a meeting

The employee should be given sufficient notice of the meeting. This can be done with a letter that states the misconduct that occurred and the intent behind the meeting. The employee should also be given the option of bringing a support person to the meeting.  Providing a clear outline of the alleged misconduct and potential consequences will assist the employee to prepare for the meeting and provide a more clear and concise response.

2. Present the facts

During the meeting, the employer should clearly present all the facts and evidence to address the misconduct. Evidence can come in many forms including witness testimonies.

3. Listen

The employee should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations brought forth. This does not necessarily have to occur during the meeting, it can be presented in a written statement after the meeting has occurred. It is important that the employee has responded to the allegations before a decision is made.

4. Respond accordingly

Once the employee has responded, the employer needs to determine if the act is to be categorised under ‘general misconduct’ or ‘gross misconduct.’ If it is indeed gross misconduct, the employer may have the option to dismiss the employee immediately.
If it is general misconduct, the employee needs to be given an opportunity to improve their conduct. In some cases, employers may have to provide additional mentoring, guidance, or education to reduce the chance of a repeat offence.

5. Follow-up meeting

It is good practice to continue monitoring the employee’s performance for the weeks, and if required months, to come. During the meeting, the employer can update the employee on their performance – addressing areas of improvement, as well as areas where little progress has been made.

Read more on how to run a disciplinary meeting and download an infographic here.

Managing employee performance

To reduce the risk of misconduct and repeat misconduct, your employees should be aware of what the expectations are in respect to how they are expected to behave, the level of performance standard that needs to be maintained, and the alignment with objectives and values of the business.

There are many ways you can manage and improve employee performance. The key is to be consistent and ensure that the system is getting the desired results. If that fails to occur, continue to rework the process until achieves an optimal result.

Below are some effective ways to manage and improve employee performance:

  • conduct regular performance appraisals and reviews
  • give employees a platform to provide honest feedback – without fear of retribution
  • set clear expectations – verbally and in writing – in regard to conduct, performance standards, and company goals
  • use employee feedback to update company policies and agreements
  • be sure management is consistent in how they follow company policies

Employsure helps you identify and manage with misconduct. For peace of mind, please call our 24-hour Advice Line now on 1300 207 182.

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