Dismissing an employee? Watch your step

01 July 2015

Jennifer McCreanor, Solicitor, considers the strict guidelines with which an employer must comply when facing the prospect of dismissing or disciplining an employee

When an employer is faced with the prospect of dismissing or disciplining an employee there are strict guidelines which they must comply with to ensure they do not fall foul of the law. 

Step 1 –Put it in writing.

As the employer you must write to the employee setting out the alleged conduct, characteristic or other circumstance which has led you to contemplate dismissing or imposing a disciplinary sanction against the employee.This letter must set out particulars of the alleged conduct of the employee in sufficient enough detail to enable him or her to give an informed response to the allegations against them. It is also appropriate and indeed advisable to provide any documentary evidence with the letter. You must invite the employee to a meeting to discuss the matter, advise them of the possible outcome of the meeting and their right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or colleague.

Step 2 – The Meeting

The employee should take all reasonable steps to attend and engage in the meeting however if the employee has a valid reason for not attending on the arranged date, you must make arrangements to re-schedule the meeting.The employee should be given the opportunity to put their case and ask any questions they feel are relevant to the allegations against them.Upon full investigation and only after considering all the information you have before you, can you then make a decision to dismiss.Once you have made your decision you must inform the employee in writing, explain the grounds for the decision and give them the right of appeal.

Step 3 – Appeal

If the employee wishes to appeal the decision you must arrange an appeal meeting and the employee must again be given the right to be accompanied by a Trade Union representative or colleague.Upon reflection of the evidence submitted at the appeal meeting, the decision must be communicated to the employee in writing.It is always advisable to have a senior member of staff chair the meeting to avoid any accusation of impropriety.

As a general rule each step should be taken without unreasonable delay, the timing and location of meetings should be reasonable and should be conducted in a manner which enables both parties to explain their case.

Failure by an employer to follow any of the steps of the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures (DDP) could lead an employment tribunal to find the employee has been automatically unfairly dismissed and impact on the amount of compensation the employee could be awarded.The recent case of Booth v Mercury Security Management Ltd (Case ref: 1278/14) dealt with this very subject.In this case the tribunal determined the Respondent, Mercury Security Management Ltd., had failed to comply with step 1 of the DDP and as such the decision to dismiss the Claimant was automatically unfair.

Cases such as Booth v Mercury Security Management Ltd serve to remind employers of the importance of ensuring you are complying with each step of the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures.Employers wishing to dismiss employers should always avail of professional legal advice.




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