Go to main content

Employee misconduct

In the event of misconduct on the part of your employees, you as an employer have a certain responsibility to ensure that the misconduct is brought to an end. If you have investigated the incident and taken the necessary action, but the misconduct continues, you may have fair grounds for dismissing the employee.

In principle, an employee has five different obligations under the employment contract:

  • To perform work.
  • To comply with the rules and regulations.
  • To follow safety regulations and use safety devices.
  • To work with others.
  • To be loyal.

Unauthorised absence

Unauthorised absence may be fair grounds for dismissal. It is important that you, as the employer, find out the reason for the absence and take steps to put an end to it. If they are short and isolated occasions with an acceptable explanation, they are unlikely to be grounds for dismissal.

If an employee is absent for more than about two weeks without contacting the employer, this may be considered fair grounds for termination. However, it is important that you have tried to get in touch with the person during this time. Dishonesty in time reporting may also be grounds for dismissal.

Refusal to work

Refusal to work is fair grounds for dismissal if it is unreasonable. This means that there should be no reason for the employee to refuse to perform their work tasks. An employee is obliged to perform all work that has a natural connection with the business.

Refusal to work may be acceptable if the work order was unclear or involved danger to life and health. The employee may also not have understood what was expected.

Criminal offences

Criminal offences performed during the course of work are normally fair grounds for dismissal or summary dismissal, but must nonetheless be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Labour Court takes a particularly serious view of theft and violent crime.

Poor work performance

Incompetence at work can be grounds for dismissal if the employee's performance is much worse than you might have expected. It may be that the employee takes an unreasonable amount of time to perform their work tasks, they perform these tasks poorly, or they generate costs that are significantly more than the revenue they generate.

Before you can dismiss someone for incompetence, you need to find other solutions. It may be that the problem can be resolved through training or reassignment.

Problems working with others

Serious difficulties working with others may be fair grounds for dismissal. However, general unpleasantness or a disagreement between two people is not sufficient grounds for dismissal.

The deciding factor is how important the ability to work with others is to the job. While it is an important ability for a supervisor, it is less significant for someone who works alone and independently. As an employer, you need to investigate the problem. It may be resolved by reassigning one of the people involved. Other measures may also be necessary, such as bringing in a psychologist or someone who can mediate. Naturally, the extent of your obligations as an employer depend on the size of your company.

Disloyal behaviour

An employee has a duty of loyalty to their employer. The higher the position, the greater the demand you can have for loyalty.

Disloyalty can include conducting competing activities or engaging in activities that compete with those of the employer. Disloyalty can also include speaking ill of the employer and spreading lies. It is not disloyal for an employee to blow the whistle in accordance with the Whistleblower Act.

Intoxication at work

Intoxication is considered misconduct unless it is clear that the issue is alcohol dependence of a disease nature. Disease is not grounds for dismissal. Rehabilitation measures are instead required. Even if you run a small business, you have a far-reaching rehabilitation obligation. This means that dismissal can only be considered after appropriate adaptation and rehabilitation measures have proved unsuccessful. Medical rehabilitation measures must be taken by society. The employer's responsibility mainly relates to adaptation measures if such are possible.


Misconduct due to illness is not deliberate misconduct. If an employee is unable to do their job because of illness, you have a responsibility to rehabilitate them. Rehabilitation measures may include work training and technical aids. However, you have no responsibility for medical rehabilitation.

Support and advice for EU nationals

Your Europe is an EU site designed to help you do things in other European countries – avoiding unnecessary inconvenience and bureaucracy.

Your Europe website

Help us improve

Let us know what you think by rating this page and answering a few questions.

Leave feedback at Your Europe