Dutiful dismissals: The compliant approach to letting an employee go

The prospect of dismissing an employee can fill managers with dread. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to feel held to ransom by the thought of a costly employment tribunal and a PR nightmare. Chris Cook explains why this doesn’t need to be the case.

Dismissal is the logical response to an employee who has trouble working in harmony with your organisational objectives. This can range from being ill-suited for a particular role, to being actively disruptive to forward progression. However challenging the situation, leaving it to fester can cause a great deal of financial damage, and can negatively impact other staff members.

But what about the laws protecting employees? Well, there is certainly a right and wrong way to approach dismissal, but if you apply a fair and consistent procedure then you have the law on your side. Here are some key things to bear in mind to dismiss employees dutifully:

The last resort

Dismissal is the final action at the end of your disciplinary procedure, after all reasonable attempts have been made to improve the employee’s contribution. The only scenario where instant dismissal would be permitted is if they break a serious term of their employment contract, but legal advice is recommended if this is the case. You need to be certain that an employment tribunal won’t find the action to be excessive.

Start off-the-record

Ideally, begin with an informal chat with the employee to bring their attention to your concerns, which may be all that is needed to get them to amend their behaviour. Launching straight into formal procedures such as a disciplinary warning is a big step that can cause unnecessary friction. In some cases, it may be appropriate to have this chat with another senior member of staff present to witness the discussion.

Be clear about the reasons

One of the main causes of unfair dismissal is the reasons given by the employer, so make sure you’re clear about what they are. If it’s performance-related, make sure you have a clear benchmark. If the employee can prove that other team members do the same amount of work or less, a tribunal could turn against you. If the employee is being disruptive, make sure you have a tangible record or witness to the damage being caused. If you’re not sure, seek legal advice first.

Stick to the procedure

Fair treatment is the key concept to bear in mind. You need to prove that you apply the same procedure to all staff regardless of who they are or what they do at the organisation. Generally speaking, your disciplinary procedure should be robust enough to handle most situations but, if you find you need to deviate, seek legal guidance first.

Stay positive

Emotions can sometimes get the better of us, but try to keep them out of the situation if possible. Your aim is to get the employee to conform with the requirements of their role, not to encourage them to leave – another key cause of unfavourable tribunal awards. This can be tough if it’s your organisation and someone is actively wasting your money, but distancing yourself emotionally can minimise the risk of saying and doing things that could ultimately work to your disadvantage.

Optimise your recruitment process

Finally, the HR adage of “more time spent hiring means less time spent firing” is as true as ever. Create an exceptional recruitment process that tests employees in multiple ways, and includes thorough background and reference checks. Make sure even those seemingly perfect candidates are what they say that are. 

CONTACT CHRIS

If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or an Employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Chris Cook on 01727 798089.

Read SA Law's latest employment views & insights
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Covid-19 and home-working mental health for the insurance industry

Keely comments on mental health issues faced by home-workers in the insurance industry plus duty of care and handling HR issues remotely during covid-19.

Read More
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Updates to off-payroll working in the private sector

Following the delay to the introduction of off-payroll working in the private sector, the government are introducing some amendments to the original proposals,…

Read More
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: update affecting notice periods

The Treasury has published a further Direction to provide rules that will govern the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Most of the rules in the…

Read More
GDPR Numbers Image SA Law
Views & Insights
A new age: working from home and GDPR

What GDPR issues may arise from working from home and what you should do to reduce risk and stay compliant.

Read More
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Updated Guidance on Flexible Furloughing

Under the flexible furlough scheme, employees can work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest, in proportions decided between employee and…

Read More
Views & Insights
Promoting good mental wellbeing during lockdown

Mental Health Awareness Week: Kelly Pike highlights how to support staff.

Read More
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Direction and Extended Deadline

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended to 30 June 2020, plus The Treasury has also issued a Direction to HMRC which provides legally binding…

Read More
Join our mailing list

Want our latest views & insight along with exclusive event invitations and much more sent directly to you?

Read More

© SA LAW 2020

Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.