HRBC Forum Summary

May 2021: Trouble in Paradise? Handling Misconduct

In May’s edition of the HR Breakfast Club, BAL Lawyers Andrew Chakrabarty  delivered an engaging presentation on ‘Handling misconduct in the workplace’.

The presentation opened with definitions of ‘misconduct’, ‘performance’ and ‘serious misconduct’, and impressing upon HR practitioners the importance of trying to characterise matters as such.

As for advice about how to handle misconduct, Andrew summarised it in 3 P’s: Particulars; Process; and Proportionality.

Particulars refers to getting  specific as early in the misconduct process as possible, to help to identify (and limit) the issues at hand for the benefit of all concerned. Putting in this effort will also allow a respondent to know the case s/he has to meet, and even helps to identify is there is an issue of misconduct at all.

As for process, HR practitioners should be careful to find and follow the applicable employment law framework, such as contractual obligations, company policy, award or enterprise agreement provisions, and potentially unfair dismissal and discrimination laws. While ‘fairness’ is not universally required, it is usually required, and handling misconduct complaints ‘fairly’ will assist HR practitioners avoid being embroiled in a raft of employment law-type claims.

Finally, proportionality and purpose was advised as the touchstone for employers to strive to achieve when imposing sanctions in response to proven misconduct.  HR is in the business of getting employees working productively and respectfully. Sanctions should not be punitive, but be proportionate to this end.

Handing misconduct is a common but increasingly complex part of a HR managers role. If you have a workplace conduct issue that you would like to talk through with us, please contact the Employment Law and Investigations Team for more information.

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