Tips For Employers on How to Properly Handle Employee Dismissal

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Handling the dismissal of an employee is never easy.

Up to 60% of HR managers have seen conflicts at work spill over into violence, and even if the employee you’re letting go isn’t likely to fly off the handle, it’s never pleasant to have to tell someone they have lost their job.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary, and there are steps that you can take to ensure that this goes as smoothly as possible for everyone.

If you’re unsure of how to best handle employee dismissal, read on.

Preparing for Dismissal

The procedures that lead to a successful dismissal begin before the hiring process. To fully comply with English and Welsh employment law, a range of policies and procedures should be put in place. What you need will depend on the size and type of organisation.

Policies & Procedures

If you want to avoid having problems with employees then it is important to set expectations. This can be done through documents such as:

• Job Description
• Conduct Policy
• Disciplinary Procedure
• Grievance Procedure
• Performance Review Template and appraisal system

It’s also advisable to have the following policies in place:-

• sickness absence;
• holiday or other forms of time off; and
• a substance abuse policy, covering alcohol and recreational drug use/misuse.

As part of the onboarding process, new employees should be given copies of these and other relevant policies and asked to sign that they have read them and understood them.

When both parties have a common understanding of what is expected, there should be fewer misunderstandings and the steps to terminate employment are clear and considered.

Review the Documentation

Generally, termination of employment is the last resort. It isn’t something that happens out of nowhere, or because of a single incident (save for gross misconduct/negligence situations). There is a clear path from the first incident, to the decision to dismiss.

If the staff member is underperforming, then their performance reviews should reflect that. It will be useful for both the manager and HR to meet and look back over the documentation to ensure that dismissal is the right option.

Has the issue been raised with the staff member, and have they been offered the right support to improve? Employers should always follow a proper capability process prior to dismissal.

Where the dismissal is being considered because of incidents not related to performance, then the disciplinary procedure should have been followed. This usually involves an escalation from a verbal, to a written warning, to a final written warning before dismissal is considered.

An important step in how to dismiss employees effectively is ensuring that HR and the line manager have a clear understanding of how that decision was reached. This will help when it comes to informing the employee of the decision.

A paper trail of how the company has tried to address the situation will be useful in the event the employee threatens legal action.

Make Sure You’re Legal

It can be helpful to seek legal advice prior to a dismissal. A professional review of the circumstances and documentation will ensure that you have considered all angles, such as mitigation and what happens post-termination, such as how to protect trade secrets.

To find advice near you, contact Centurion Legal Nottingham.

Schedule the Meeting

Although you might think that the best time to fire a staff member is a Friday afternoon, experts disagree.

A Friday afternoon firing sends the staff member home with two days to brood about what happened, and nothing to do except brush up their CV before they start looking for another job on Monday.

By letting someone go on a Monday you give them several business days to look for alternative work – and you also give your team time to get used to working without them.

Make sure that you have a private room available. It can be helpful to have another staff member present to make notes, so there can be no misunderstanding about what was said later.

If you suspect that the person may become aggressive, then ask for security to be present or located discretely nearby to ensure your safety.

Allow yourself around adequate time to conduct the meeting – as rushing to dismiss can suggest to the employee that the decision was premeditated and you were not going to listen any mitigating factors, which could influence your decision.

What to Say

There’s no easy way to tell someone that they’re fired. There’s no way to make it a pleasant experience, and if you try to soften the blow you could give mixed messages. Prior to the meeting, prepare what you want to say so that you can speak with confidence.

Honesty and compassion the two key elements of how to dismiss an employee. You should begin with a clear and unambiguous statement such as: ‘Your employment has been terminated as of today.’

Whatever you say, phrase it carefully to ensure there is no room for doubt. Even saying, ‘will be’ rather than ‘has’ may be interpreted by the employee as a situation they can change.

Explain the reasons for the firing, remaining factual – for example, referring to their last employment review and a lack of progress. You should always give the employee a chance to speak/put forward their version of events, but don’t let it become a debate or worse, an argument.

A firm, ‘I’m sorry, but the decision has been made,’ may be helpful if the discussion continues. You should also explain how to appeal your decision, save for when employment ends during the probationary period.
If any pay is due, including holiday or other pay, then make the employee aware when they will receive it, or if it is being withheld for any reason.

Tell the Team

Once the process is complete, including any appeal, you should inform the rest of the team. Keeping any message simple and factual is the key, bearing in mind that any such message may inevitably reach the dismissed employee.

Get it Done

Before the meeting takes place, get your facts straight and take legal advice to make sure that all goes as smoothly as possible.

If you’re reading this article because you need to approach employee dismissal and you’d like some advice on how best to go about that then please get in touch.

Here at Centurion, we pride ourselves on the support we offer to our clients at all time, and especially during those tricky moments, like having to let someone go.


DISCLAIMER: This document is intended to be a guide to the current law only. It does not constitute legal advice and you are not entitled to rely upon it. You should always take proper legal advice relating to your own situation before acting.