According to ACAS, ‘A dismissal occurs when an employer terminates the employee’s contract’. Just as formal disciplinary action should only be necessary if informal methods have failed to resolve the problem. A dismissal should be the last resort in terms of sanctions. However, if a dismissal does occur there are important steps to ensure the employer handles the dismissal professionally and in line with the law. If not, an unfair dismissal can have serious long term and short-term implications for a company.
So why are dismissals so important to get right? A recent example would be in the case of an employee who refused to accept a pay cut and was subsequently awarded £17,000 for unfair dismissal. It was noted during the tribunal that Mr C Decker ‘’no longer felt valued as an employee” and that “he was being forced out…for asking for an additional £0.88 per hour”. The managing director Brad Richardson said the business was currently not able to offer a pay rise and offered a different contract, which now had to be signed. Decker said he had not agreed to another contract and believed the pay rise was not unreasonable given his eight years at the company. Decker claimed altogether; £4,942.92 for his eight years of continuous employment at the company and a compensatory award of £11,882.20, uplifted by 10 per cent for the employer’s breach of the ACAS code. This shows that not following the proper procedures can cost the company longer term.
Unfair dismissals can also have a detrimental affect on peoples lives. An example of how it can deeply affect someone would be in the case of Mr M Whittaker. Liverpool Employment Tribunal found that Mr Whittaker, a gay primary school teacher who was fired after being accused of forming a ‘highly inappropriate’ relationship with a pupil was directly discriminated against and unfairly dismissed. Allegations such as this can have a long-term effect on a person, even if the allegations are false, an unfair dismissal because of discrimination can cost a person their career.
Before a dismissal is even considered, there are significant steps to take to ensure that a disciplinary is fair and just. Informal action should be taken wherever possible for either minor misconduct or recent poor performance.
If formal action is required, it is just as important to establish the facts through an investigatory process. During this investigatory process, an investigation officer is appointed to gather all the evidence and make an informed recommendation to the employer on whether to proceed with a disciplinary meeting. The nature and extent of the investigations will depend on the seriousness of the matter and the more serious it is then the more thorough the investigation should be. Before a disciplinary hearing takes place, the employee should be made aware of the allegations against them with any supporting evidence and should have the right to challenge the accusations beforehand.
If the employer feels the evidence is conclusive they will then write to the employee and invite them to a disciplinary hearing. The employee has the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker, a trade union representative or an official employed by the trade union. A disciplinary hearing will then take place and the employer will inform the employee of the extent of the punishment; whether that be a written or verbal warning, a dismissal or other sanction. If a sanction is implemented such as a written warning or a dismissal, the employee has the right to appeal the decision. If all these steps are adhered to in the correct manner, it will significantly decrease any short or long-term consequences for a business.
For more information on dismissals and the code of practise around disciplinary’s visit: