How do I deal with a member of staff who claims to be visiting clients but is clearly skiving? I had a call from a client who was due to be visited by one of our consultants, it turns out that he did not arrive. When questioned he claimed it was due to the traffic. This has now occurred three times, each time with an unbelievable excuse, which I gave the benefit of the doubt. It is bad for my reputation so do I have grounds to dismiss him? 

An employee not performing their job role falls in to the ground of misconduct and this is one of the potentially fair reasons for dismissal. Dismissing employees should often be seen as being the last option but, as a client facing employee, this misconduct situation will be putting your businesses’ reputation at risk. The right to dismiss will ultimately depend on the employee’s length of service.

Where an employee has less than two years employment, it is generally possible to circumvent the full procedure to dismiss that a tribunal would expect you to undertake with an employee who has greater length of service than this. This is because an employee with less than 2 years’ service generally cannot claim unfair dismissal. Depending on your contractual disciplinary procedures, you may be able to swiftly effect a dismissal but this should still involve meeting with the employee and giving him a chance to explain his actions and then decide what you want to do accordingly.

If this employee has two years continuous service then they have the right to present a claim for unfair dismissal at tribunal. To avoid this claim you need to identify a potentially fair reason for dismissal, already identified as misconduct, but, a fair procedure that complies with the Acas Code of Practice needs to be followed.

Because you have not raised this issue formally with the employee in the past, dismissal for this offence may not be seen to be a fair sanction unless there is already a warning on the employee’s file permitting dismissal in this circumstance. You need to start formal action with the employee.

Even though you believe that the employee’s reasons are simply excuses you need to carry out a full and proper investigation in to these ‘excuses’ or reliance on this belief is likely to be unreasonable. For example, you can use the call from the client as evidence that the employee did not carry out his required visit. Any evidence should be produced to the employee so that they have a chance to explain their case. You shouldn’t decide beforehand what the outcome will be but when you do decide, formally let the employee know. You can then proceed to build on this for future occurrences.