Terminating an employee’s contract, whether due to performance or misconduct, is a situation that no employer wants to find themselves in. If you’ve never dismissed an employee, the process will naturally be daunting and seem like a minefield to navigate.
At best, it’s a difficult and often uncomfortable conversation. At the worst, you could find yourself on the receiving end of court proceedings if your employee believes they were unfairly dismissed.
Following a fair procedure is essential in maintaining compliance with legislation and mitigating the risk of an employment tribunal. While we hope you don’t need to fire any staff in the near future, the following should provide a quick guide on how to ensure a fair dismissal should an employee leave you with no choice but to let them go.
Follow your disciplinary procedure
Unless your employee has acted in a way that justifies an immediate termination of their contract, you should always ensure the process you follow to dismiss them is exactly the same as the procedure detailed in your disciplinary policy.
As eager as you may be to get it over and done with, you should always provide your staff the opportunity to cease their behaviour and improve conduct. Providing informal and formal warnings will see that your employee is made aware of their behaviour and given a chance to turn things around before it results in dismissal. Remember to take notes during this time of each step that has been taken in the process to cover yourself should the employee seek to claim unfair dismissal.
Make sure the reason for dismissal is valid
When dismissing an employee, it’s always wise to question your motivation behind the decision to determine whether it is fair, necessary and does not discriminate. Valid reasons to dismiss an employee include their performance and capability to do the job they are paid to do, behavioural conduct in the business and redundancy. If you can’t attribute your reason to any of these causes, there’s a chance the termination of their contract could be unfair.
Take discrimination out of the equation
As valid as your reason may be, it’s worth considering whether the performance of an employee relates to a disability, be it physical or a mental health issue. If it does, it is your responsibility as their employer to first make reasonable adjustments to help improve their performance before taking action to dismiss them. Remember, if your reason for dismissing someone could be seen as discriminatory, the dismissal will be considered automatically unfair and can be brought forward as a challenge irrespective of how long they worked for you.
Invite your employee to a disciplinary meeting
Transparent communication is the key to a fair dismissal in which both employer and employee understand and appreciate the reasons for the termination of their contract. With this in mind, your next step should be to invite your employee to a private meeting to discuss their performance or conduct and the next steps. When inviting your employee to the meeting, you should always ensure the letter is clear in stating that the outcome of the meeting could be dismissal. Be sure to outline the reasons that you have for coming to this decision and be sure to provide supporting evidence: this will enable your employee review your reasons ahead of the meeting itself.
Communicate the outcome and your employee’s rights
When emotions are running high and an employee’s job is on the line, a disciplinary meeting can easily evolve into a full-blown conflict. Maintaining a calm yet firm demeanour while clearly explaining the allegations you hold against the individual, your reasons for dismissal and the instances in which you provided opportunity for improvement will help to keep it professional.
If the outcome of the meeting is to proceed to a dismissal, you should reiterate your reasons for doing so and remind your employee of their right to appeal the decision as well as the deadline they have in which to do so. It goes without saying that the dismissal should be followed up with a written statement that confirms your reasons for terminating their contract early, states their final day of employment.
If you’re dealing with a potential dismissal but need advice on ensuring a fair disciplinary procedure, get in touch with one of our expert employment lawyers today on 0333 772 0826.