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How do I dismiss my employee legally?

Ask a lawyer

At Rocket Lawyer UK we’ve helped to answer over 10,000 legal questions from our members since 2012. From doing some analysis we’ve managed to pick out some common issues that businesses and individuals face. This Ask a lawyer blog series will feature step-by-step instructions to solve some of these common legal issues, such as tenant eviction, dismissing your employee, business compliance and more!

In Ask a lawyer: How do I dismiss my employees legally, I’ll set out the process you should follow.

Step 1: Check the employment contract

You must follow and observe the terms within the contract of employment. Employers must usually give advance notice to end the employment relationship. Most employees are entitled to at least the legal minimum notice period of one week. If the employee has worked for you for more than two years, then they’re entitled to a longer notice period. For further information read Notice periods.

It’s really important that the employment contract is followed, otherwise the dismissal could be considered unfair or wrong which can lead to employment claims.

The only time when an immediate dismissal (ie not giving the employee any notice) is valid is in cases of serious and gross misconduct. For further information read Summary dismissal and gross misconduct.

Step 2: Follow a fair process

What counts as a fair process depends on the reason for dismissing the employee. Usually a fair process will involve holding a formal meeting or hearing where all the facts can be established. This also allows the employee to provide their defence of any allegations or provide their side of the story. Every employer is under an obligation to follow a fair process and no employer is exempt from this.

An employer should hold an initial meeting to discuss with the employee that there is risk of a potential dismissal. 48 hours notice is a reasonable time to notify an employee.

Consider using an Invitation letter to a poor performance hearing if the reason for dismissal is because of poor performance or an Invitation letter to a disciplinary hearing for misconduct if the reason is due to misconduct.

Step 3: Conduct a disciplinary hearing

Once you have invited the employee to attend a formal hearing, you should make sure that all the arrangements have been finalised. All employees have the right to be accompanied to disciplinary and grievance hearings and appeals by a fellow worker or trade union rep, if they reasonably request this.

At the hearing, you should have a chairperson, someone from the employer to take notes, the employee, their companion and ideally an HR representative to make sure the right procedures are followed.

For further information read How to run disciplinary hearing.

Step 4: Make your decision

Once the formal hearing is over, you should give the outcome to the employee as soon as possible. You should write to the employee to let them know what the decision is. This can either be a warning and no action, further training or dismissal. You can use a Disciplinary outcome letter for misconduct or a Poor performance outcome letter, if there is no further action required (ie you don’t intend to dismiss the employee). However if you decide that dismissal is the appropriate action then you can use a Dismissal letter for misconduct or a Dismissal letter for poor performance.

Step 5: Allow an appeal

Providing a right of appeal is an important part of a fair process. If an employee appeals a disciplinary decision, let them know in writing that you’ve arranged a formal appeal meeting and that they can bring a companion. You can use an Invitation letter to a disciplinary appeal hearing for misconduct if the matter relates to misconduct or an Invitation letter to a poor performance appeal hearing if the matter relates to poor performance.

To wrap up…

An underperforming employee can be a burden on your business rather than adding value. An employee who doesn’t act in line with your business standards could risk your business reputation or demoralise other staff. Dismissing your employee may seem like an obvious choice. But this is not always an easy decision to make. Personal factors can make the process complicated. Evidence or witnesses are not always 100% accurate. Trying to get the employee to cooperate can be difficult. But these issues shouldn’t stop you from making a decision to dismiss your employee. Especially if it’s in your business’ best interests. Just make sure you follow a fair and thorough process!

Next time on the Ask a lawyer series: How do I make my business GDPR compliant?

Ask a lawyer if you have any further questions on dismissing employees, or if you have a legal issue you’d like me to blog about contact me.

Alan Cheung

Paralegal at Rocket Lawyer
Alan is a paralegal at Rocket Lawyer UK. He has a law degree from the University of Westminster and has recently graduated from the Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School. He is passionate about employment law and intellectual property and strongly believes in accessible and affordable legal services.
Alan Cheung