The Court of Appeal has issued a judgement that has re-stated the position that negligence can be so bad as to be gross misconduct and justify summary dismissal.
In this particular case, a senior manager became aware that another manager was undermining a consultation exercise. The original senior manager, although he knew of this subversive activity, did nothing to stop further activity or bring the subversive activity to the attention of someone else.
When the employer found out about the senior manager’s inactivity, it disciplined him for gross negligence. While the charge was negligence, which is technically a performance issue, it was gross negligence that was so serious given the manager’s seniority, it destroyed the trust and confidence in the relationship. The destruction of trust and confidence is a breach of contract and can be categorised as gross misconduct. Therefore the employer was justified in treating it as grounds for summary dismissal.
This question will always be subject to the individual facts of the case. It should be noted that the damage to the employer could be great, and the manager who was negligent was senior. It should also be noted that the more senior the employee, the less warnings may be required in relation to negligence warranting dismissal.
The case can be read in the original at the following link: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/22.html