Warning for employers dismissing without notice

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By Antonia Blackwell

Employer seeking to dismiss employees without notice for acts of gross misconduct should be mindful of recent case law in this area.

Generally, to terminate an employment contract, an employer will need to give the requisite period of notice or risk a claim of wrongful dismissal. However, in circumstances where the employee commits an act of gross misconduct, the employer is entitled to dismiss immediately without giving notice. To constitute ‘gross misconduct’, the misconduct in question must be sufficiently serious as to undermine the mutual trust and confidence between the employer and the employee — that is, it must amount to a repudiatory breach — and this will be a question of fact in each case.

In Robert Bates Wrekin Landscapes Ltd v Knight, Mr Knight worked as a gardener for Robert Bates Wrekin Landscapes. His contract included 17 situations in which his employment could be ended without notice, one of which was theft of the employer’s or customer’s property and another was breach of security rules including the removal of property without a ‘property pass’. A bag of bolts from the site was found in Mr Knight’s van. Although Mr Knight claimed he had found the bag but forgotten to hand it in, he was dismissed for theft and removing goods from the site without the required ‘property pass’…

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