As a business, you’ll have to remove staff members from your workforce from time to time. Although this can be difficult and stressful, there’s a set process you must follow to comply with British laws.

To help you understand the steps you need to take, in this guide we explore how you can go about dismissing one of your employees.

Remember, if you need immediate help with this matter you can refer to our employment law advice centre for support on how to dismissal a member of staff.

How to dismiss an employee legally

There are a few distinct forms—these are:

  • Fair and unfair: This depends on your reasoning behind the dismissal, as well as the way your business acts during the process.
  • Constructive: A resignation from an employee. This’ll come about due to the a breach in their contract of employment, such as through a drop in their salary, an unlawful demotion, or due to an unfair increase in their duties.
  • Wrongful: When your business breaks the employee’s contractual terms during your dismissal process. A major example here is if you don’t provide the employee with their contractual notice. This can result in an employment tribunal if they think your actions are unfair.

You should think of dismissal as a last resort. For example, if the employee was involved in an act of gross misconducted then you should carry out an investigation to be sure of all the facts.

But in all instances where you feel dismissal is a requirement, you must look to act in a consistent and fair way to all of your staff members. What’s fair? Keep these seasons in mind:

  • Because of the employee’s disruptive behaviour.
  • Due to the employee’s lack of suitable skills and poor quality work.
  • For redundancy purposes.
  • Because of statutory duty or other restrictions.
  • Any other significant issue that you can use to justify the dismissal.

How to dismiss an employee for poor performance

If there’s a serious incident at your workplace (such as a hate crime) then a summary dismissal will remove them from your business.

But you still have to follow the right process. If you don’t follow your disciplinary procedure, there can be negative consequences for your business.

If there isn’t a fair process, then you can face an employment tribunal. So you should look to keep the following steps in mind:

  • Giving a valid reason to the employee over why you’re dismissing them.
  • Conducting an investigation into the incident to gather facts.
  • Providing them with details on how you’ve acted reasonably.
  • Confirming how your reasons for dismissal are fair.
  • Allowing the employee the chance to appeal.

How to dismiss an employee on probation

Dismissal during a probationary period is often due to a new starter not meeting up to expectations in the role.

You should treat it as a last resort to make sure the employee doesn’t need a bit more time, training, or support to meet your business’ expectations.

However, if it’s necessary then you can follow these steps regarding how to fail someone's probation period:

  • Request in writing they attend a probationary review meeting. During that you can inform them you’re planning to terminate their contract.
  • The employee can bring a colleague or trade union member into the meeting.
  • Offer evidence that backs up your claims.
  • Allow the new starter a chance to respond to the issues.
  • Make a decision—either terminate their contract, or extent their probation period.
  • Once you have your outcome, provide a copy of your notes in writing to the employee.

You should only look to terminate their contract due to the following reasons:

  • Poor progress that doesn’t meet with company expectations.
  • Unacceptable behaviour, such as poor timekeeping or low-quality work.
  • Gross misconduct.

They’ll have the right to appeal this decision. As we mention elsewhere in this guide, remember to be fair and consistent. They may be new to your business, but you should look to treat them with the same respect as long-term staff members.

How to write a dismissal letter to an employee

This letter will notify your employee they’re set to leave your business. In it, you should list the steps ahead—such as any compensation they’ll receive.

Although you should adapt your letter to each incident every time, you can refer to the below template and add in your company letterhead as you see fit.

*Start of template*


[Employee’s name],

This letter is to confirm that your employment with [your business’ name] will end from the following date: [list the employee’s final day with you].

After an investigation we have decided to terminate your employment contract due [list the reasons].

You will receive the following as part of our severance package:

  • Pay for holiday leave not used.
  • Final compensation.
  • Health care benefits.

You must return all company property to us by then, which includes [list the items]. Please remember that you have also signed out [for example, confidentiality policy] and expect you to honour this even when no longer an employee.

If you have any questions regarding this decision, please contact [name of appropriate manager}.

Yours sincerely, [name of individual managing the termination]

*End of template*

How to sack an employee without a written warning

In an act of gross misconduct, you don’t have to include a warning or notice. A few examples that qualify include:

  • Hate crimes.
  • Gross negligence.
  • Fighting with colleagues.
  • Deliberate damage to company property.
  • Theft.
  • Fraud.
  • Working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It’s when an employee leaves your business because of summary dismissal that they won’t work any notice period with you.

Need our help?

If you’re in need of immediate help with dismissing an employee, get in touch with us for immediate help: 0800 783 2806.

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