How do you fire an employee correctly?

Career break

It’s something that no employer wants to do. The very end of your tether. The final option. 

Firing an employee. 

Whether it’s due to an ongoing issue which has been addressed with countless warnings and disciplinary action or it’s a one off serious incident, sometimes firing an employee is the only option left available. 

It’s something that most employers would rather avoid if possible, as at the end of the day, there was a reason in which you hired this employee to join the company in the first place. Some employers may see this as a personal loss or misjudgement of character, but you can only do so much to guide or help an individual.

So what now? You know you need to fire the employee, but it can be an absolute mine-field with following the correct protocol and system of rules. One incorrect email or wrongly worded letter and you could find yourself in an unfair dismissal tribunal.

We asked ELAS Legal Consultant, Jacob Demeza-Wilkinson, to breakdown some of the most prominent technicalities to keep in mind when firing an employee, as well as the ones to pay extra attention to:

“There are a number of different ways that you can go about firing an employee, and there are a number of different reasons for reaching that decision, but the only way to dismiss someone the right way is to make sure that dismissal is a reasonable and fair outcome, and just as importantly, to make sure that the correct process is followed as closely as possible.

For smaller businesses, it can often feel like a daunting prospect when considering dismissal, so it is generally important to have a robust ACAS compliant policies in place, which can be followed during any procedure. Generally if the process is followed properly and a full and proper investigation is carried out, then the dismissal itself will be easier. The more unprepared you are for a meeting, the harder it will be. 

Also be mindful that when an employee has not yet worked for the business for over 2 years, you can implement a more efficient process than the disciplinary process, known as an employment review meeting.

In terms of treating an employee that is being dismissed with dignity and integrity, the key thing really is to ensure that throughout the process they are listened to, that any evidence they can offer or point to is considered carefully as well as ensuring that an open mind is kept right to the end of the process to ensure there are no prejudged outcomes. Ultimately, if you can prove that an employee has done something worthy of dismissal, then the dismissal will be fair.

The key thing with any process that leads to dismissal, for long service employees at least, is the process. Small errors in the procedure here and there can be fatal for a fair dismissal. The ACAS Code of Practice should be followed at all times, and advice should be sought where possible. The biggest mistakes we see are employers jumping into the process, or even jumping to a decision, before taking stock of the situation and ensuring they are doing the right thing. By then it can be too late.

It is possible to dismiss an employee on long term sick leave, but this is a tricky area and caution should be applied at all times. Generally, an absence has to progress for a considerable period of time before this can even be considered. Even then, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible from the employee and from a medical source, and to be sure that there is no prospect of the employee returning to work in the foreseeable future, before a dismissal is even a potential outcome. Generally we would advise taking advice on cases such as this as the risk of disability discrimination can be higher than in normal cases.”


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