FAIR DISMISSALS: Valid and fair reasons for dismissing an employee include:
- Lack of qualifications, poor capability or misconduct.
- Bad behaviour, poor discipline, theft, or dishonesty.
- Long-term illness, persistent absenteeism, or imprisonment.
- Redundancy or statutory restriction (something legal that prevents them from doing their job).
Various other fair reasons qualify for dismissing staff fairly. These are often called ‘other substantial reasons‘ such as a business relocation.
Fair Dismissal Example: You employ someone to provide temporary maternity cover. They get dismissed when the maternity cover period finishes. In this scenario it would be fair providing you made it clear that the job was temporary at the start of the placement.
Acting Reasonably During a Fair Dismissal
Having a fair and valid reason is only the first step of the dismissal and disciplinary process. You must also act ‘reasonably’ to keep the dismissal fair and legal.
We searched a concise list of employment law acts and ‘reasonableness‘ has no legal definition. But, it has implications at an employment or industrial tribunal. In this case the tribunal panel would consider whether the employer:
- Had a genuine belief that the reason was fair.
- Carried out proper and thorough investigations where appropriate.
- Followed the relevant dismissal procedures.
- Informed the employee the reasons behind a consideration for dismissal and heard their views. This step must be in writing in Northern Ireland.
- Allowed the employee to have a companion at any disciplinary or dismissal hearings.
- Provided the employee with an opportunity to appeal.
In some cases ‘reasonableness’ might have another significant meaning. It could depend on whether you should expect the employee to understand the full consequences of their behaviour.
Statutory Dismissal and Disciplinary Procedures
Employers must set out their dismissal and disciplinary rules and procedures in writing. Failing to do so means a tribunal can order you to pay compensation to a fired employee.
Summary Dismissal Meaning
Summary dismissal means you made an instant sacking without any notice period or pay in lieu of notice. As a rule, it usually occurs following acts of gross misconduct (e.g. fraud, theft, or violence).
A tribunal can rule a summary dismissal as ‘procedurally unfair‘. You can only suspend someone without pay when their employment contract states this. If not, you should suspend the employee on full pay and investigate the circumstances.
What if you feel that a summary dismissal is your only course of action? In this case you must still follow a fair dismissal procedure. Treat the sacking as you would for any other workplace disciplinary matter.