Director's Cut: You're Fired- Is it really ok to follow the Lord Alan Sugar way of dismissing an employee?

Peninsula Team

November 25 2011

Whilst it may work for Lord Alan Sugar on the television, an instant ‘You’re Fired’ dismissal in real life is likely to lead to more than an after-show television appearance and perhaps a couple of magazine interviews for the employee. It’s probable that the real consequences will include the filling in of a few forms and the collection of a cheque with many noughts on it.

So why is it ok for Lord Sugar? Because these people are not his real employees and it’s all for our viewing pleasure. It’s not real life; that’s why.

The concept of summary dismissal, or instant dismissal, does exist in the real life employment world. This means dismissal on the spot with no notice pay being due to the employee. However, it is reserved for the most limited of circumstances so, in the main, the vast majority of dismissals must always be preceded by some kind of procedure. Procedure, it seems, is not high on Lord Sugar’s priorities.

No-one within Lord Sugar’s team has committed an act, to be treated as gross misconduct that is so serious that it goes right to the heart of the employment relationship meaning that it is in no way possible for that relationship to continue. These are the circumstances which may lead to a fair summary dismissal but the circumstances would have to be undeniably clear – there would have to be witnesses to the incident and there must be no reasonable explanation for the employee’s behaviour.

So what have the Apprentices done to deserve their ‘dismissal’? Been on the losing side of a selling competition and badly managed the project, or made a couple of bad decisions which lead to their side’s loss? Hardly gross misconduct, is it?

Had Lord Sugar carried out an investigation into the employee’s failings and implemented the appropriate procedure with the employee – bearing in mind that it may be the employee’s capability that is in question, rather than a flagrant breach of rules meaning the procedure should be of a disciplinary nature – then this would have set him on the right track. He still would have had to put much more work, subject to the length of service involved, into this employee to ensure that any consequent dismissal in the circumstances would be deemed as fair.

Even where an act of gross misconduct has allegedly been committed, the Lord Sugar style of dismissal is still likely to land an employer in trouble. Pointing the finger and uttering ‘You’re suspended pending investigation’ would be the safer option. Obviously these actions should be followed up with the relevant paperwork and - once again - procedure, to formalise matters.

Lord Sugar is obviously an excellent businessman, but hopefully the dismissal of his employees in his real companies is left in the hands of his undoubtedly capable HR team. 

As always I welcome your comments and views, please email me at alanprice@peninsula-uk.com

For help on dismissals at work, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

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