20 min read


Last updated July 2024

This chapter outlines the legal risks associated with taking action against an employee for misconduct. It also covers your rights and obligations when it comes to dealing with misconduct.

What is employee misconduct?

Definition: Misconduct

Misconduct is unacceptable behaviour by employees that is inconsistent with their obligations to you. Examples include consistent lateness, abusive comments to work colleagues, and incidents that are more serious, such as theft or intoxication at work.

Your employees are obliged by their employment contract to behave appropriately in the course of their employment. This includes having an obligation:

  • to act in your interests with good faith and fidelity;
  • not to place themselves in a position in which the employee’s own interest conflicts with their duty of good faith and fidelity;
  • not to take for themselves an opportunity within the sphere of your business operations without your fully informed consent;
  • not to use your confidential information for their own benefit;
  • to maintain your confidence;
  • to take reasonable care in working for you;
  • to cooperate with you as far as it is reasonable to do so; and
  • to obey your lawful instructions.
Important: Breaching or failing to meet these obligations will amount to misconduct.

Examples include:

  • sexual harassment;
  • abusive comments to work colleagues;
  • disruptive behaviour that affects other employees in the workplace;
  • inappropriate language; and
  • a continual pattern of lateness.