It’s been said that a business is only as good as its people. This is especially true in smaller businesses, where each employee’s contribution is so much more tangible to the business’ growth and success.
However, it doesn’t matter how diligent you are when recruiting new employees, most businesses at one point or another will find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to let an employee go, which can be a very problematic and worrying time.
One of the biggest myths amongst small businesses is that it’s nearly impossible to fire an employee. While it’s true that employees are well protected against mistreatment in the workplace, if you’ve got a fair statutory reason and follow a procedure that is fair and reasonable, then you should be able to dismiss an employee with confidence.
With more than 60,000 Employment Tribunal claims raised in Scotland, England and Wales in 2014/2015, getting the basics of right is vital. The first step is to identify that you have a fair statutory reason to do so. Without a fair reason the dismissal will be deemed unfair and you could well find yourself in hot water.
What is a fair reason?
To legally justify a dismissal you need to have at least one of these reasons as detailed by ACAS, which include conduct or behaviour, capability (ability to do job/right qualifications), redundancy, statutory restriction (i.e. not legally able to work in this country, or some other substantial reason.
What is an unfair dismissal?
You can be hauled before an Employment Tribunal for a number of reasons, but unfair dismissal is the one that worries most business owners as it is often the motivation that leads an employee to fight against their employers’ decision.
A dismissal can be deemed as unfair for a broad range of reasons which is why employers need to tread so carefully. These include things like making a protected disclosure (whistleblowing), performing health and safety activities, pregnancy or seeking to exercise the right to flexible working.
However, one thing in the employer’s favour is that employees can only claim unfair dismissal if they have been employed for more than two years.
How to deal with dismissals
If you find yourself in the position of having to dismiss an employee, then you need to follow this three-step statutory dismissal procedure:
1) Inform your employee through writing of your intentions, stating the reasons why and inviting them to a meeting to discuss the issue.
2) Hold the meeting and give the employee the opportunity to respond to your concerns before you finalise your decision.
3) Give them the right of appeal.
This process is ideal for employees that have served less than two years with your company. However, the process may not be so straight forward for those who have been with the company longer than this period of time. You may be obligated to follow any performance management or capability procedures in order to avoid a breach of contract. If this is the case, consult your contracts and ensure that you follow the relevant processes.
It’s never an easy decision to have to terminate a colleague’s contract, but by ensuring you follow the book you shouldn’t have too many sleepless nights.
Be certain of your legal grounds for dismissal and as long as you document these in writing and effectively communicate these to your employee, giving them the chance to provide feedback, there shouldn’t be a basis for them to declare an unfair dismissal.
By Jonathan Richards, CEO of breatheHR