The claimant was a Regional Operations Manager responsible for 20 stores. When an HR Partner sent an email to 5 store managers in his region, which undermined and manipulated the employer’s procedure for measuring staff engagement, the Manager failed to take any action. Following his dismissal without notice for gross negligence tantamount to gross misconduct, he brought a claim for wrongful dismissal.
The Court of Appeal confirmed that gross negligence can amount to gross misconduct, justifying summary dismissal without notice. However, there will only be limited circumstances in which an employee’s failure to act justifies summary dismissal, if they did not intend to act contrary to, or to undermine, the employer’s policies.
This case illustrates that where a manager’s negligence relates to a procedure, which the employer treats as an important part of its culture, and the individual is responsible for the success of that procedure, this can amount to a serious dereliction of duty which may justify dismissal.
That said, there are not likely to be many occasions where dismissing a grossly negligent employee without notice is risk-free, particularly if the negligence is a result of their failure to act, rather than their action.