When can an employer legally dismiss an employee?

An employer can legally end an employee’s contract, known as ‘fair dismissal’ for a number of reasons. However, it is important employers behave appropriately during the dismissal process, follow the correct legal procedures and always have appropriate disciplinary and grievance procedures in place, to avoid unfair dismissal claims. In this blog, we share when a dismissal is deemed fair, what employers need to do and the legal rights of employees. 

Understanding dismissal from work 

An employer can legally dismiss an employee from work, ending the employment contract for various reasons and in some situations, can do so with no prior notice. 

However, to fairly dismiss someone, an employer must show: 

  • They have a valid, justifiable reason to dismiss an employee. You can read more about the reasons an employer can dismiss someone on the Government website.
  • They can prove they’ve acted reasonably in the circumstances, for example; they have followed all the appropriate disciplinary procedures. It’s also important employers always have written disciplinary rules and procedures in place, that employees are made aware of – following the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures – as without this and without following the appropriate steps, what should be a fair dismissal can result in a successful unfair dismissal claim at an employment tribunal.
  • They have been consistent, for example; not dismissing an employee for something that they allow other employees to do.
  • They have fully investigated the situation that has led to a dismissal, prior to dismissing an employee. For example, fully investigating the situation leading to the consideration for dismissal, such as a complaint made against an employee before deciding to dismiss them. 
What notice periods do employers have to provide before dismissing an employee?

Employers must provide the minimum notice period within their employment contracts or, the statutory minimum notice period when dismissing an employee (whichever happens to be the longest period of time). 

For certain situations, immediate dismissal can take place for ‘gross misconduct’ for example, if an employee has been violent. Although an employer doesn’t have to follow the normal disciplinary procedures in such situations, an investigation should still be carried out before making an official dismissal. 

Do dismissed employees have any legal rights after dismissal? 

Dismissed employees that have been employed for 2 years have a legal right to ask for a written statement from their employer regarding their dismissal. Employers have to give a written statement within 14 days of them being asked to provide one 

Employees that were dismissed whilst on Statutory Maternity Leave have an automatic right to a written statement of dismissal, without asking for one, regardless of how long they were an employee. 

If an employee believes they have been unfairly or wrongfully dismissed, they do have a right to bring a claim against an employer, therefore it is vitally important employers always follow the correct disciplinary and dismissal steps. Whenever in doubt, employers should seek professional legal advice to understand their rights, their employee’s rights and what steps to take. 

If you need further advice on a dismissal matter, speak to our specialist employment law team

Written by Nikki Sharpe

dismissal, employees, employer, Employment Law

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