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How to sack employees & not be sued

Updated April 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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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About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."