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How Long Does Gross Misconduct Stay On Your Record?

How does gross misconduct affect future employment

Gross misconduct refers to actions or behaviours by employees that are considered a serious breach of the employment contract, bad enough to lose trust in an employee entirely. These actions can be anything from theft to outright violence. The immediate disciplinary action is usually summary dismissal, otherwise known as instant dismissal, where the employee is fired without any notice. But how long does gross misconduct stay on your record?

Real Business has put together this article to explore this question to ensure any who worry about navigating this issue with future prospective employers. Read on to find out more.

Does Gross Misconduct stay on record?

In the UK, there is no mandatory time limit for how long gross misconduct stays on file. However there are several kinds of gross misconduct and multiple factors and circumstances that change how they’re viewed. The following are some things to take into account before you begin worrying:

  • Nature of Misconduct – The more severe the act, the longer it’s likely to remain on record for long periods. For example, direct harm or a severe breach of trust are issues many future employers would want to know about. Furthermore, actions that become a legal matter, especially if a conviction is involved, will almost certainly stick out.
  • Company Policy – Company policy is unique across organisations and has differing views on record keeping and disciplinary actions. You should be able to find their policy outlined in your employment contract or an employee handbook.
  • Industry – There are certain sectors where a serious breach is forgotten about quickly, such as in work with high turnover rates. That being said, some sectors, such as those dealing with vulnerable people, may have stricter regulations. In these sectors, you can expect gross misconduct to stay on record for a long time.

What are the possible consequences of gross misconduct?

Beyond the obvious implication of losing your employment, gross misconduct dismissals can cast a wide shadow over future employer prospects:

  • Job Applications – Many applications ask several questions as to your background. Every new employer at least asks if you have any unspent criminal convictions, but beyond that, they may ask if you’ve been dismissed or faced disciplinary hearing before. You may have heard honesty is the best policy, but as far as we’re concerned, you’d be better off asking a legal professional. This is because they would likely know the consequences of hiding or downplaying gross misconduct in future employment.
  • Reference from Previous Employers – For jobs that are complex or have high standards, a reference may be asked from your previous employer. This, of course, isn’t the best outcome for someone with gross misconduct on record.
  • Background Checks – We have found there’s an increase of companies who run through background checks.

Consequences of Misconduct

What if I suffered an unfair dismissal?

If you believe that your dismissal was unfair, you may file an unfair dismissal claim. However, it’s worthwhile to note that having gross misconduct on your record whilst issuing this claim will likely only weaken your perceived legitimacy. Nonetheless, you can take your former employer to employment tribunal if this is how you feel, but then here are some things to take note of:

  • Burden of Proof – In an unfair dismissal claim, the burden of proof is on your former employer. This means that they have to prove that their dismissal was fair by demonstrating a legitimate reason for dismissal, such as gross misconduct. They must prove your actions warranted gross misconduct, and that you were dismissed by company policy.
  • Weakened Argument – Your gross misconduct charge will be scrutinised. If your actions are seen in a poor light, the employment tribunal will likely see your case as undermining.
  • Reduced Compensation – If an employment tribunal sides against you, then it’s likely that the compensation you will receive will be reduced considerably, if you get any at all.
  • Importance of Final Written Warning – The final written warning, also known as a formal warning, can play a critical role in the tribunal. A properly issued warning for behaviour that foreshadows the context of your gross behaviour charge will be huge evidence in justifying dismissal.

Is my unfair dismissal worth pursuing?

There are challenges, but also strong reasons as to why you should go after your former employer as a result of a dismissal deemed unfair:

  • Clear Procedural Error – If you have been advised that your employer committed a serious breach of procedure, this reflects very poorly on them, and brings their judgement into question. This opens the door for further scrutiny across the case as a whole, which may have a snowball effect in your favour, especially if you know a full investigation would look bad on your former employer.
  • Mitigating Factors – If there were mitigating factors around your misconduct, then being able to demonstrate this would aid your case magnificently.

What can my previous employer disclose?

When approaching a new job, a lot of people fear what their previous employment may say, possibly making it harder to secure employment. It’s vital to understand, then, where the boundaries are.

  • Employer Obligation – Your previous employer are not legally required to give over a reference. Those who choose to, however, are legally bound to ensure the information given is truthful, fair and accurate. Information should be kept purely to their actions, and ensures to avoid discrimination. This means an employer must not speak of their previous employees health, protected characteristics or personal information. When speaking of a legal matter, information must come with irrefutable evidence.
  • Protection for Employees – If you believe a past employer has provided a misleading, exaggerated or unfair reference, you are within your rights to pursue legal action. Real Business has seen a couple of cases like this, and our advice to all in this situation is to find legal advice as fast as possible.
  • Importance of Transparency – Hiding a dismissal for gross misconduct comes with risks. Employers are likely trained to look for gaps in your employment history and inconsistencies with given information. Being upfront and honest, and providing common examples of moving forward in life is the best policy in most cases, as it’s an attractive quality in all human beings.

The immediate implications of Gross misconduct.

The fallout of your dismissal isn’t just about new job prospects, but also the potential shockwave that will ring out to your finances, well-being and immediate concerns.

  • Financial Fallout – Instant dismissal means an abrupt loss of what is likely your primary income source. This can create immediate stress and anxiety. Here are some things you should do immediately.
    • Review Contract – Your employment contract will outline company policies regarding entitlement to outstanding salaries, unused holiday pay and contractual notice periods. Some companies may have some safeguards in place that will allow you to leave with some security. Knowing your rights is the best line of defence.
    • Contact Citizens Advice – Citizens advice and related organisations are invaluable resources for citizens in many areas, mostly revolving around rights and government assistance.
  • Impact on Health – A dismissal of this nature can leave many people feeling poorly, both in body and mentally. We have seen many people whose self-esteem has been affected adversely as a result.
    • Don’t Isolate – Speak to friends. Help work through what happened so you understand your position. Having them support you will make it easier to confront your gross misconduct issue.
  • Logistical Matters – After you’re dismissed, there will still be loose ends to tie up that may feel awkward.
    • Company Property – All company property will have to be returned, and many employees feel uncomfortable doing so. We would recommend finding a way to leave your property in the hands of someone you’re friendly with in the company, or leaving it at the receptionist if you have to.
    • Project Handouts – Your dismissal could send projects and client relationships into upheaval. It’s best to approach all with professionalism and transparency, not paint anyone as the enemy, and cooperate with all handover procedures.

Poor Behaviour Meeting

Conclusion – Rebuilding Your Future

After a gross misconduct disciplinary hearing or an immediate dismissal, it can be hard to look to future employers right away because of the grey area that exists. How long gross misconduct may affect you is unknown, but that doesn’t mean you can’t deal with it.

  • Reflect – What were the specific actions that brought you to where you are? Are there underlying issues that you need to address? Understanding is the best defence against repeating the same mistakes.
  • Refocus – Your experience was hard, but you must have learned a lot during your time at the business. The time you spent learning your craft you can now spend getting a flying start at new jobs.
  • Consider reaching out – Your bosses are still human, and over time, they may decide to give you another chance, even if not with their company. Reaching out and burying the hatchet is a lot easier done when the person whom you once had issues with now seems redeemed and in a better place.


What are examples of Gross Misconduct? 

The following table will outline the different actions that are considered gross misconduct. 

Category of Gross MisconductExamplesPotential Consequences
Theft and DishonestyStealing company property, falsifying records, misuse of company fundsSummary dismissal, loss of reputation, potential legal action
Serious Breaches of TrustLeaking confidential data, sabotage, bribery, conflict of interestSummary dismissal, loss of reputation, industry blacklisting, potential legal action
Violence and HarassmentPhysical assault, threats, sexual harassment, bullying, discriminationSummary dismissal, potential legal action, criminal charges
Health and Safety ViolationsEndangering others, ignoring regulations, working under the influenceSummary dismissal, harm to others, potential legal action
Negligence and IncompetenceGross negligence causing harm, repeated poor performance, ignoring instructionsSummary dismissal, loss of reputation, impact on future employment
Other Serious OffencesCriminal activity, severe insubordination, grossly offensive behaviourSummary dismissal, potential legal action, damage to reputation


Can I be fired from a new job if they discover past gross misconduct?

Yes, unfortunately. The following are the reasons why:

  • At-Will Employment – Some sectors allow for employers to dismiss at will. Others allow for a shorter probation period than normal. Nonetheless, in these situations, we would expect an employer to immediately pursue dismissal.
  • Duty of Honesty – It’s not mandated that you share everything with your employer, but if you failed to be honest about gross misconduct when the topic was broached, even through open questions, then it’s likely they will lose trust for you entirely. This depends on the sector you’re working in, however. Actors, for example, are known for telling white lies to get a role.
  • Contract Clauses – There could be contractual clauses reserving the right to dismiss any employee lying about past work history. Breaching your employment contract for the second time by lying anyway is likely to lead to your dismissal.

Can Gross Misconduct prevent me from working in certain industries?

Yes, it can. Here is how:

  • Vulnerable Sectors – Some sectors involve working with vulnerable people, such as the elderly or children. In these sectors, to maximise protection, employers are held to high standards. This leads them to have a zero-tolerance policy against certain types of misconduct, as well as strict background checks to ensure they don’t jeopardise security.
  • Reputation Damage – Gross misconduct can destroy the reputation of a person in certain sectors. For example, if your gross misconduct has to do with violence, and you work in a care environment, this would likely raise serious red flags.
  • Licensing and Certifications – Some industries require specific licenses to enter, and gross misconduct may invalidate or prevent you from getting or renewing your license.
  • Informal Networks – A lot of industries, online B2B especially, is full of contacts who know each other. News can travel between them, which could be bad if you’re not held in high esteem, or if they consider the issue to possibly be against their bottom line.


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