Dismissing staff is an unpleasant and stressful experience. Establishing a robust dismissal process will give you guidelines to follow, and the confidence to carry out this difficult task safe in the knowledge that you have acted correctly.
You may need to consider dismissing staff for a number of reasons, but they usually fall in to one of two categories:
Dismissing staff on the grounds of performance
You are perfectly within your rights to dismiss staff if:
- They are incapable of doing their job to the required standards
- They are capable but unwilling to do their job to the required standards
Dismissing staff on the grounds of conduct
Misconduct is behaviour that you, as an employer, consider to be unacceptable. The scope of misconduct can include minor things such as unauthorised absences, serious misconduct that could cause harm to your business, or gross misconduct such as theft, violence or gross negligence. Examples of what you consider to be misconduct should be given in your Employee Handbook, together with the possible consequences of such behaviour.
There is no legal requirement for dismissing staff, however you must be able to demonstrate that your process was fair…
The dismissal process
If you want to dismiss someone, there is no specific process you must go through by law, provided you do it fairly. However, in order to avoid claims of unfair dismissal it is considered best-practice to follow certain procedures:
- Arrange a meeting with the employee and clearly explain the reason for it. Outline your issues with either their performance or conduct and give them opportunity to comment. If you are not satisfied with their explanation issue them with a first written warning. In this warning you should clearly outline how you expect them to improve and in what time-frame. You should also warn them that if their performance or conduct does not improve to an acceptable level you will issue them with a final written warning.
- Hold a second meeting if their behaviour or performance has not improved sufficiently within the agreed period. Again give them opportunity to explain and issue a final written warning if you are not happy with this explanation. Revise the action plan with deadlines for improvement and inform them that you will consider dismissal if these conditions are not met.
- Hold a third meeting if their conduct or performance is still below the required standard in the specified period. Warn them that dismissal is now possible. After the meeting, and appeal if there is one, decide whether to give the employee further opportunities to improve, or dismiss them. Regardless of your decision, you must inform them of the outcome.
- In cases of serious misconduct, where an employees behaviour is deemed serious enough to damage your business, it is possible to issue a “first and final” written warning. In this instance you must still explain that should satisfactory improvement not be made within an acceptable time period this could lead to dismissal.
- Where gross misconduct has occurred you can dismiss the employee immediately, provided you follow a fair procedure. A full investigation of the incident should be carried out and they should be given an opportunity to have their say before you dismiss them.
If an employee feels they have been unfairly dismissed, they have the opportunity to take their claim to an Employment Tribunal. The key element in this is the word “fair”. As previously mentioned, there is no legal requirement for dismissing staff, however you must be able to demonstrate that your process was fair and consistent.
All employers worry that should they ever have to dismiss someone they will receive a claim for unfair dismissal. That’s why many seek professional advice regarding discipline, grievances or dismissals.
If you’re worried about managing one of these situations, get in touch. We can start to help you straight away.