UK: Discipline – gross negligence can be gross misconduct justifying dismissal without notice in some circumstances

Employers may be entitled to summarily dismiss an employee for a grossly negligent failure to act, for example where the employee is senior and fails to uphold a key policy of the employer.

In Adesokan v Sainsbury's, a regional manager responsible for implementing a staff survey in his region failed to ensure that an email attempting to subvert the survey, sent by an HR manager in both their names, was withdrawn. He had asked the HR manager to clarify the message, but this was not done and the regional manager did not check up on this nor did he take any other steps. The survey was an important management consultation exercise and viewed by the employer as a key policy for staff motivation and critical to its culture. The Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court's decision that, even though the inaction of the regional manager was not deliberate, given his senior position his negligence was so serious that it resulted in a loss of trust and confidence sufficient to justify dismissal. However, situations where this will be the case will be rare.

Employers should check their disciplinary policies include gross negligence in a non-exhaustive list of types of gross misconduct.

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