Dismissal procedure

24 April 2020

Employee dismissals are, unfortunately, a necessary part of the business world. It’s often unavoidable following the actions of some members of staff.

However, no matter the conduct of an employee (such as gross misconduct), you must handle the situation accurately and fairly.

Removing an employee from your business is a serious matter—there are important Irish employment laws to keep in mind.

And so, in this guide, we take you through the correct process in Ireland.

Common reasons for dismissal

Again, gross misconduct is a regular reason for an employer to dismiss a member of staff.  

That’s where there’s such a serious act by an employee you must dismiss them immediately. Examples of this can include:

  • Hate crimes towards colleagues or customers (such as racism).
  • Physical violence.
  • Verbally aggressive behaviour.
  • Theft of business property.
  • Working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

So, as you can see, it’s the type of behaviour you can consider very serious—and a blatant breach of their contract of employment and your company policies.

Should one of the above occur, then you can take steps to remove the employee from your business.

But, remember, you must have clear evidence of the employee’s transgression.

This is to support your decision to dismiss them. Simply put, you must have details to back up your justification. If you don’t, an employee may view your decision as discrimination.

You must also show you had fair procedures—and that you followed them and provided fair treatment.

And disprove any allegations of unfair dismissal.

But you should also keep in mind there may be less serious actions that lead you to remove an employee. Examples of this include persistent:

  • Poor performance.

Again, you can dismiss them for these—but first, you have to take steps to ensure they’re aware of any issues they’re causing.

How to dismiss a member of staff

It’s a common question we receive from businesses, “How can I dismiss an employee?”

Well, you must have a statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedure to follow in place. Making these as clear as possible will help avoid any mistakes during the process. Errors can lead to damaging results for your business.

So, in your contracts and documentation, you should make it clear what’s an offence—and how it can lead to a dismissal.

You should always aim for a positive relationship with your employees.

The vast majority of staff want to do their job well for you and advance their, respective, careers.

But occasionally an employee may, for example, become disillusioned and start to take their role less seriously.

Other factors, such as stress in their personal life, may lead to a drop in work performance.

With this in mind, it’s important to address the issue. But to do so in a thoughtful way, rather than immediately presuming an employee is deliberately misbehaving.

How to dismiss an employee for poor performance

As an example, for a common type of dismissal, we’ll focus on the continuous poor performance of an employee.

If an individual’s behaviour remains consistently poor (such as completing tasks to a low standard), you must follow the correct procedure for dismissal.

This begins with informal counselling for the employee. You must do this before you take any more serious actions. This is so the employee knows the standards they must aim for.

A relevant line manager can complete this task. The steps you’ll need to take include:

  • Holding a meeting with them to discuss any issues they have.
  • Telling them about the improvements they should aim for.
  • Providing a plan of action, so they understand what they must do to meet company expectations.
  • Providing them with a written note explaining these actions, which the manager and employee should sign.

If there’s no progress after this stage, then you can move to follow your formal disciplinary procedure.

How to dismiss an employee legally

You must aim for a fair dismissal. That means you must be able to justify your reasons for terminating a contract of employment.

If you can’t do that, you may end up facing a Workplace Relations Commission claim for unfair dismissal.

To ensure you follow the right procedure, you must follow fair procedures. Broadly speaking this means breaking down the dismissal into stages to allow the employee an opportunity to have their case heard and address their alleged shortcomings.

Most procedures of this type escalate from the initial informal warning, followed by written warnings and ultimately to dismissal if the employee shows no improvements.

The basic principles to follow are:

  • Put fair procedures in place and follow principles of natural justice as set out in the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.
  • Provide appropriate verbal and written warnings.
  • Ensure the employee is fully aware of the case against him or her.
  • Ensure the employee has an opportunity to present their side of the story, and
  • Notify the employee of the right to be represented in any disciplinary procedures by a trade union official or to be accompanied by a colleague as appropriate.

Ultimately, if you have sufficient evidence to prove the employee’s behaviour doesn’t meet the standards in their employment contract, you can dismiss them.

Regardless of the process you follow, the employee may still claim for unfair dismissal. But they must have at least one year of service with your business to do so.

This highlights the importance of securing records that prove their performance or behaviour isn’t satisfactory.

Dismissal procedure during probation

Some employers think there are no risks to dismissing an employee during their probation period.

However, it can still result in costly Workplace Relations Commission claims if you’re not fair with a dismissal.

To protect yourself from this outcome, you should have a probation period policy.

This should outline what you expect of the new starter during their probation period of three or six months. For example:

  • The quality of work you expect them to complete.
  • KPIs they should aim for.
  • Their conduct during the probation.
  • Reasons that could lead to dismissal during the probation period.

You can also extend the probation period though it is important to bear in mind that employees will be entitled to rely on the unfair dismissals legislation once they have completed one year’s service.

The Workplace Relations Commission are also unlikely to look favourably on multiple extensions of a probation period.

You can outline that the employee is subject to a different type of procedure than full-time staff who’ve passed their probation period.

You should make sure the employee reads your probation policy (and disciplinary policy, if you think this will further help their understanding).

But if a new starter does prove to not live up to expectations, you can dismiss them.

Again, you must be able to justify why you’re doing so.

Need our help?

If you have a pressing dismissal question you need help with, get in touch for immediate assistance: 0818 923 923 .

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