When can gross negligence justify dismissal?


The case of Adekosan v Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 22 provided a neat answer to this question.

The case concerned an HR Manager (“B”) who sent out a memo that might have influenced the result of an employee feedback survey.  The survey itself was well understood to be a crucial management tool used to measure staff engagement and one that could impact performance assessments and bonuses.

B’s boss, the Regional Manager, was held responsible for B’s actions by Sainsbury’s; he had failed to ensure that B corrected his misleading memo even though he had instructed B to clarify it. The Regional Manager was adjudged by Sainsbury’s to be in serious breach of his responsibilities. He was immediately dismissed.

The Court Of Appeal found that Sainsbury’s was entitled to dismiss the Regional Manager for gross misconduct. The focus was on the damage to the relationship between the parties; such damage did not need to be due to dishonesty or other deliberate actions but could be caused by gross negligence.

Niki Avraam, Employment Partner comments: The definition of what constitutes gross negligence justifying dismissal, is perhaps a lower standard than one might expect. The focus undoubtedly remains on the consequences that the business suffers as a result of the gross negligence at hand.


Howat Avraam Solicitors provide Commercial, Employment and Contract Dispute advice to companies and business owners.  As business owners ourselves, we have a pragmatic in-house approach to resolving issues before they arise by working alongside our clients.  We are commercial, practical and entrepreneurial in our approach to legal services.

To discuss any employment matter on a no obligation basis, please contact Niki Avraam, Employment Partner, on 020 7884 9194 or email Niki at Niki.Avraam@hasolicitors.co.uk.  Alternatively, visit our website at www.howatavraamsolicitors.co.uk.

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