Reason for dismissal—conduct

The following Employment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Reason for dismissal—conduct
  • Refusal to comply with instructions
  • Participation in industrial action
  • Breach of discipline and disciplinary rules
  • Criminal offences
  • Whether to postpone internal disciplinary proceedings pending the outcome of criminal proceedings
  • Dishonesty
  • Sexual offences: interaction of unfair dismissal with Human Rights Act 1998
  • Misconduct related to freedom of religion
  • Misconduct related to a disability
  • More...

Reason for dismissal—conduct

Conduct is a potentially fair reason for dismissal. Dismissals for misconduct are probably the most frequent category of unfair dismissal claim brought before the employment tribunal.

The conduct does not have to be of any particular character. It does not have to be 'reprehensible' or even 'culpable' for it to constitute a potentially fair reason, although the extent to which the claimant is blameworthy may be relevant when considering whether or not dismissal was a fair sanction in all the circumstances and also when assessing compensation, see: Appropriateness of dismissal: general below and Practice Note: The unfair dismissal compensatory award—Contributory fault.

Dismissal for an isolated incident of misconduct will rarely be fair although, in some circumstances, the incident will be sufficiently serious to justify dismissal for a first offence. Generally, dismissal for misconduct will only be a reasonable sanction if the employee had committed earlier acts of misconduct and been warned that further incidents may lead to dismissal.

Refusal to comply with instructions

An employee is under a general obligation to follow lawful and reasonable instructions given by their employer. The scope of the employer's powers and the employee's obligations will usually be set out in a written statement of terms and conditions or other contractual documentation (see: Employment contract—overview). However, there may also be unwritten duties arising from custom and practice.

Fair dismissal may follow from

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