Skip to content

Dismissal Procedures

Dismissal Procedures

Vanessa Cresswell

Vanessa Cresswell

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit dolor

There have been many changes to employment law and regulations in the last few years. A key area is the freedom or lack of freedom to dismiss an employee.

An employee’s employment can be terminated at any time but unless the dismissal is fair the employer may be found guilty of unfair dismissal by an Employment Tribunal.

In November 2011, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal increased from one to two years continuous service. However, there is no length of service requirement in relation to ‘automatically unfair grounds’.

We set out below the main principles involved concerning the dismissal of employees including some common mistakes that employers make. We have written this factsheet in an accessible and understandable way but some of the issues may be very complicated.

Professional advice should be sought before any action is taken.

The right to dismiss employees

Reasons for a fair dismissal would include the following matters:

  • the person does not have the capability or qualification for the job (this requires the employer to go through consultation and/or disciplinary processes)
  • the employee behaves in an inappropriate manner (the company/firm’s policies should refer to what would be unreasonable behaviour and the business must go through disciplinary procedures)
  • redundancy, providing there is a genuine business case for making (a) position(s) redundant with no suitable alternative work, there has been adequate consultation and there is no discrimination in who is selected
  • the dismissal is the effect of a legal process such as a driver who loses his right to drive (however, the employer is expected to explore other possibilities such as looking for alternative work before dismissing the employee)
  • some other substantial reason.

Claims for unfair dismissal

Upon completion of the required qualifying period, employees can make a claim to an Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal within three months of the date of the dismissal and if an employee can prove that he/she has been pressured to resign by the employer he/she has the same right to claim unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal.

In addition to the increase in qualifying period, the government has also introduced plans for details of claims to be submitted to ACAS where the parties will be offered pre-tribunal conciliation before proceeding to a Tribunal. However, there is no obligation of either party to take it up. Since 29 July 2013 the government has introduced fees for claimants bringing tribunal claims.

There are two levels of claim, depending on the complexity of the case. For straightforward claims with one claimant there will be two fee points, an issue fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £250, for more complex claims (including unfair dismissal and discrimination claims) these figures rise to £230 and £950, for multiple claims the fee per claimant is discounted on a sliding scale. The tribunal may order the fees to be repaid to the claimant if he or she is successful with his or her claim. Fees are also payable for appeals submitted to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. These are £400 on submitting a notice of appeal and a further £1200 hearing fee. Claimants can benefit from the remission system which provides a complete exemption for those on certain state benefits and partial remission on a sliding scale for those on low incomes.

If the claim proceeds to Tribunal and the employee wins his/her case the Tribunal can choose one of three remedies which are:

  • re-instatement which means getting back the old job on the old terms and conditions
  • re-engagement which would mean a different job with the same employer
  • compensation where the amount can be anything from a relatively small sum to a maximum cap of 12 months’ pay, which will apply where the amount is less than the overall cap. Where the dismissal was due to some form of discrimination the award can be unlimited.

If the dismissal is demonstrated as being due to any of the following it will be deemed to be unfair regardless of the length of service:

  • discrimination for age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation or marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave
  • refusing to opt out of the Working Time Regulations
  • disclosing certain kinds of wrong doing in the workplace
  • health and safety reasons
  • assertion of a statutory right.

Statutory disciplinary procedures

The Employment Act 2008 introduced the ACAS Code of Practice which saw a change to the way employers deal with problems at work. It also saw the removal of ‘automatic unfair dismissal’ related to failure to follow procedures. Tribunals may make an adjustment of up to 25% of any award, where they feel the employer has unreasonably failed to follow the guidance set out in the ACAS Code.

The ACAS Code of Practice sets out the procedures to be followed before an employer dismisses or imposes a significant sanction on an employee such as demotion, loss of seniority or loss of pay.

The ACAS Code does not apply to redundancy or expiry of a fixed term contract.

Standard procedure

Step 1Employers must set out in writing the reasons why dismissal or disciplinary actions against the employee are being considered. A copy of this must be sent to the employee who must be invited to attend a meeting to discuss the matter, with the right to be accompanied
Step 2A meeting must take place giving the employee the opportunity to put forward their case. The employer must make a decision and offer the employee the right to appeal against it.
Step 3If an employee appeals, you must invite them to a meeting to arrive at a final decision

There may be some very limited cases where despite the fact that an employer has dismissed an employee immediately without a meeting, an Employment Tribunal will very exceptionally find the dismissal to be fair. This is not explained in the regulations but may apply in cases of serious misconduct leading to dismissal without notice. What this means in practice awaits the test of case law.

Modified procedure

Step 1Employers firstly set out in writing the grounds for action that has led to the dismissal, the reasons for thinking at the time that the employee was guilty of the alleged misconduct and the employee’s right of appeal against the dismissal
Step 2If the employee wishes to appeal against the decision, the employer must invite them to attend a meeting, with the right to be accompanied, following which the employer must inform the employee of their final decision. Where practicable, the appeal meeting should be conducted by a more senior or independent person not involved in the earlier decision to dismiss.

The only occasions where employers are not required to follow the ACAS Code of Practice are as follows:

  • they reasonably believe that doing so would result in a significant threat to themselves, any other person, or their or any other person’s property
  • they have been subjected to harassment and reasonably believe that doing so would result in further harassment
  • because it is not practicable within a reasonable period
  • where dismissal is by reason of redundancy or the ending of a fixed term contract
  • they dismiss a group of employees but offer to re-engage them on or before termination of their employment
  • the business closes down suddenly because of an unforeseen event
  • the employee is no longer able to work because they are in breach of legal requirements eg to hold a valid work permit.

Common mistakes that employers make

For many the regulations have caused some confusion and practical difficulties. Some of the most common mistakes include:

  • not applying the procedures to employees with less than the qualifying period of continuous service for unfair dismissal (ie two years ). Whilst such employees are often unable to claim unfair dismissal (unless the reason for their dismissal is one of the automatically unfair reasons for which there is no qualifying period of employment such as pregnancy), they may be able to bring other claims such as discrimination with compensation increased accordingly
  • failure to invite employees to disciplinary hearings in writing or supply adequate evidence before the disciplinary hearing. The standard procedure requires the employer to set out the ‘basis of the allegations’ prior to the hearing
  • excluding dismissals other than disciplinary dismissals (eg ill-health terminations)
  • not inviting employees to be accompanied
  • not including a right of appeal
  • not appreciating the statutory requirement to proceed with each stage of the procedure without undue delay
  • failure to appreciate that an employee may have right to appeal even if it is requested verbally rather than in writing and is after a timescale set down by the employer
  • not appreciating that paying an employee a lower bonus for performance related reasons could potentially amount to ‘action short of dismissal’ by the employer
  • failure to treat as a grievance any written statement/letter (for example a letter of resignation) which raises issues which could form the basis of a tribunal claim to which statutory procedures apply. This means that the employer must be alert to issues being raised in writing even if there is no mention of the word grievance.

How we can help

We will be more than happy to provide you with assistance or any additional information required so please do contact us.

Share this with your friends

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

More to explore

Venture Capital Trusts

Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) are complementary to the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), in that both are designed to encourage private individuals to invest in smaller high-risk unquoted trading companies affected by the equity gap. While the EIS requires an investment to be made directly into the shares of the company, VCTs operate by indirect investment through a mediated fund.

Read More »

VAT Flat Rate Scheme

The flat rate scheme for small businesses was introduced to reduce the administrative burden imposed when operating VAT. Under the scheme a set percentage is applied to the turnover of the business as a one-off calculation instead of having to identify and record the VAT on each sale and purchase you make.

Read More »

VAT – Seven Key Points for the Smaller Business

This factsheet focuses on VAT matters of relevance to the smaller business. A primary aim is to highlight common risk areas as a better understanding can contribute to a reduction of errors and help to minimise penalties. Another key ingredient in achieving that aim is good record keeping, otherwise there is an increased risk that the VAT return could be prepared on the basis of incomplete or incorrect information.

Read More »

VAT – Cash Accounting

Cash accounting enables a business to account for and pay VAT on the basis of cash received and paid rather than on the basis of invoices issued and received.

Read More »

VAT – Bad Debt Relief

It is quite possible within the VAT system for a business to be in the position of having to pay over VAT to HMRC while not having received payment from their customer. Bad debt relief allows businesses, that have made supplies on which they have accounted for and paid VAT but for which they have not received payment, to claim a refund of the VAT by reference to the outstanding amount.

Read More »


VAT registered businesses act as unpaid tax collectors and are required to account both promptly and accurately for all the tax revenue collected by them. The VAT system is policed by HMRC with heavy penalties for breaches of the legislation. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for not complying with the rules. We highlight below some of the areas that you need to consider.

Read More »