How to sack employees & not be sued

Written by c. giles | 13/05/2017
How to sack employees & not be sued
Make sure you know the rules before getting rid of an employee. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

If you want to sack an employee, you should adhere to the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. If you fail to give your employee the rights they are entitled to under their employment contract, this amounts to a breach of contract and your employee could sue you for wrongful dismissal. If you have discriminated against your employee or acted unreasonably in dismissing them, they may have the right to sue you for unfair dismissal.

Put it in writing

How to sack employees & not be sued
Keep written records of all correspondence with your employee. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The dismissal must be communicated in writing, providing as much detail as possible, and the reasons for dismissal must be fair and reasonable. The following are automatically unfair reasons: dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy, maternity leave or any related reason; dismissal for trying to enforce a legal right; and dismissal for taking action over a health and safety issue.

Right to appeal

How to sack employees & not be sued
At least one face-to-face meeting must be held as part of the dismissal procedure. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

After your employee has received the letter you must arrange a meeting to discuss the matter. During the meeting, set out the problem and give your employee the chance to respond to each of your points. Write to your employee after the meeting to confirm their dismissal. Do this within a reasonable length of time. In the letter, state when the dismissal will take effect, how long the employee's notice period is, and tell your employee they have the right to appeal against your decision. Hold an appeal meeting with your employee if they decide they want to contest your decision.

Notice period

How to sack employees & not be sued
Most employees are entitled to a notice period. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Your employee must receive the correct period of notice. Most employees are entitled to a minimum notice period under the law, and may have additional rights under their employment contract. In all cases, an employee is entitled to "reasonable" notice. The required legal minimum notice one week if employed for one month or more but less than two years; two weeks if employed for two years; three weeks if employed for three years, up to a maximum notice period of 12 weeks for 12years' employment or more. Exceptions to this law are those employed for less than one month; Crown servants; seamen serving under a crew agreement on a UK-registered ship under a crew agreement; and employees who have been dismissed for gross misconduct. "Reasonable" notice often depends on the employee's pay period - for example, if he is paid weekly it could be argued that one week is "reasonable" notice.

Pay in lieu of notice

How to sack employees & not be sued
A compensation payment instead of notice may be an option. (Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Pay in lieu of notice is one way to get round the notice period and avoid a breach of contract, provided the employee has a term in their contract allowing this to happen. Should you choose to pay your employee a sum of money instead of giving them notice of dismissal, you must pay the correct amount, based on what the employee would earn during their notice period.


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