Negligence vs gross negligence

Negligence vs gross negligence

What is ordinary negligence?

What is gross negligence?

Is negligence a disciplinary offence?

When is dismissal for negligence justifiable?

If you can’t answer all these questions, read on.

Gross negligence is a knowing and voluntary disregard of the need to exercise reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable serious injury or harm to persons, property or the employer. It is a conduct that is extreme when compared with the ordinary. Negligence is a mere failure to use reasonable care.

In general terms, an employee is negligent if his or her conduct digresses from the conduct that a reasonable person would have assumed in the same circumstances. The following elements, inter alia, should have to be considered:

  1. Would a reasonable person in the particular circumstances of the employee, have foreseen the reasonable possibility that his/her conduct would cause harm to another person or his/her property?
  2. Would a reasonable person have taken reasonable steps to prevent such harm occurring?

Furthermore, consideration needs to be made of the employee’s profession, their length of service and other factors which influence their ability to perform their duties adequately. The difference between ordinary and gross can be distinguished and whether dismissal is the appropriate sanction in a particular instance.

Taking the aforementioned into account, it is clear that negligence is indeed a disciplinary offence. The severity of such offence is determined by the considerations mentioned above.

Once the severity has been determined, the care exercised by said employee analysed, mitigating and aggravating factors weighed, one is able to ascertain whether or not dismissal is justifiable. If this is found to be so, dismissal would be the appropriate sanction.


Tamara Jooste is an Admitted Attorney who joined SEESA in 2015. She has worked at Smith Tabata Inc and MM Jordaan Attorneys respectively. She has experience in civil litigation, public, estates and labour law. Her passion lies in labour law and she strives to give her clients quality service through her passion.


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