Dismissing an Employee: A Guide To Process and Procedure

Friday January 5, 2024

For employers and managers, dismissing an individual can feel like a minefield. With strict protocols and worker’s rights to adhere to, one wrong move can have severe consequences. That said, when the actions or work ethic of an employee are having an adverse effect on productivity and coworkers, it cannot be ignored.

Of course, there is no easy way to dismiss an employee; it is a process that requires tactfulness, empathy, substantial evidence and a strong grasp of relevant policy. If and when the dismissal of an employee becomes unavoidable, understanding how to correctly navigate the situation is essential.

In the following article, we’ll explore the nuances of the dismissal process, outlining those reasons deemed valid, and those categorised as unfair.

What Does It Mean To Dismiss An Employee?

As with all HR-related matters, dealing with dismissals requires a solid grasp of the subject. Though many assume they understand what classifies as dismissal, misconceptions are all too common.

At its core, a dismissal is the termination of an employee’s contract. This could be due to an economic shift within the organisation or unacceptable behaviour on the part of an employee. Typically, a dismissal requires notice. Although, as we’ll touch upon shortly, there are mitigating circumstances, such as gross misconduct, that may negate the need for a notice period.

Ultimately, a dismissal can happen at any time. This could be right in the middle of a contract, or as a period of employment comes to an end. Regardless of timing, however, it is imperative that employers act fairly and reasonably when dismissing an employee.

Who Can Dismiss An Employee?

In addition to acting fairly and with good reason, it is crucial that dismissals are carried out by those in appropriate positions within a company or organisation. While this doesn’t necessarily need to be the business owner or managing director, it should be an individual with pertinent authority. Usually, this will be a manager, department head or someone with equivalent jurisdiction.

Those carrying out the dismissal must make the employee aware of the reasoning and cover any other relevant information, such as the date the contract will end, the employee’s right to appeal and their official notice period. To ensure these steps are followed and minimise the risk of an unfair dismissal claim, the process should be overseen by an experienced HR professional.

Valid Reasons For Dismissal

As touched upon previously, acting fairly and reasonably is essential. In order to do so, employers should have a clear understanding of those reasons deemed valid for dismissing an employee. Here in the UK, a dismissal is only deemed ‘fair’ if it clearly falls within one of the following five categories:

  • Conduct
  • Capability or performance
  • Redundancy
  • Statutory illegality or breach of statutory restriction
  • Some other substantial reason (SOSR)

Below, we’ll explore these reasons in further detail.

Conduct

A conduct-related dismissal, as the name suggests, is founded upon evidence of poor conduct at work. This would be deemed an appropriate response to repeated instances of disobedience, lateness or the sharing of classified company information. Additionally, theft, violence or substance abuse in the workplace would be classed as valid grounds for dismissal due to conduct.

It goes without saying that suspected misconduct must be reported and properly investigated before any decisions are made. Once allegations have been verified, disciplinary action should commence.

Capability or performance

Dismissal due to capability or performance would be deemed necessary when an individual is unable to fulfil their professional duties due to ill health or a consistently low standard of work. There are, of course, a number of nuances to be taken into account when dealing with issues such as these. If an employee falls unwell with a long-term illness, the employer should consider how they can support the individual before a dismissal takes place. This includes giving the employee a suitable time to recover, communicating with their GP to properly understand the situation and implementing flexible working arrangements where possible.

Likewise, if an employee is exhibiting continually poor performance, the correct management and review processes must be followed before a decision is made. This will usually include any relevant training, disciplinary action or warnings.

Redundancy

There are certain situations in which the only viable option is a redundancy dismissal. Essentially, this form of dismissal is appropriate in circumstances where a business or employer no longer requires, or can no longer support, its current workers. This may be due to permanent closure, loss of business or work, location changes or complete reorganisation.

Businesses considering dismissing employees on the basis of redundancy must ensure that the appropriate consultations have taken place before the decision is finalised. Typically, it takes between two and six weeks to work through the redundancy process. It is important to note that without following the appropriate policies and procedures, businesses open themselves up to a host of unfair dismissal claims; hiring HR professionals is essential.

Statutory Illegality

Though it is less common than the above mentioned forms of dismissal, statutory illegality is used in circumstances where an employer would be breaking the law by continuing to employ an individual. For example, if a bus driver were to lose their driving licence, dismissal is the employer’s only option.

Some other substantial reason (SOSR)

Dismissals that do not fit within the above categories may still be deemed valid if they can provide ‘some other substantial reason’. This category of dismissal is somewhat vague in comparison to the first four, but it usually covers all other cases of dismissal. Examples of SOSR dismissals include, but are not limited to:

  • Complete restructuring of a business
  • If an employee refuses to accept new contractual terms
  • Breakdown in mutual trust or confidence
  • Significant personality clashes

It is worth noting that while this is a valid category of dismissal, there are certain risks associated with total reliance on SOSR. As is the case with the above categories, employers must make sure that they have acted reasonably at all times and followed fair procedure.

Following Correct Dismissal Procedure

As mentioned previously, businesses and employers that fail to follow correct procedures and policy may find themselves in an employment tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal. This is more than a minor inconvenience, and can cost companies great sums of money. For peace of mind and professional HR support, seeking the help of specialists is advised. This way, you can be sure that the proper channels are being taken at all times, and that employees are being treated with the respect and empathy they deserve.

Here at the HR Dept, we take the time to understand the nuances of your business, offering expert advice and identifying the best course of action. Get in touch to discuss your needs.

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