Is swearing or abusive language a dismissible offence?

    22 Jun 2007

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    A recent case where an employee was sacked for swearing in the workplace questions how foul or abusive language should be dealt with by employers.

    Bristol train driver, Patrick Spackman was sacked for swearing at one of his colleagues. His managers considered this as gross misconduct.

    Bryani Cuthbertson, HR Associate at Workplace Law Group Ltd says that the use of abusive or foul language in the workplace should not fall under gross misconduct but should be dealt with informally. Employers should sit down and have a conversation with the employee concerned and explain to them what the company norm is. If the employee continues to use what the company considers unacceptable behaviour, then formal action such as verbal warnings can be issued.

    A company should have a clear and formal policy on this matter, which sets the benchmark of what behaviour is accepted in the organisation.

    It is important to note that what is accepted in one organisation or environment may not be accepted in another. For instance, what will be accepted in the building industry will be different to what is accepted in the service industry.

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