Dismissal without notice: What is the Law?

09 July 2019

Terminating an employee’s contract can be a difficult process, often as it’s unpleasant having to let staff go. But your business still needs to understand the law to tackle the issue appropriately. There are common questions from employers and employees surrounding the matter. This guide explains what you need to know so your business is complaint.

Making a dismissal

“Can I be sacked without a written warning (UK)?” It’s a common question from employees—and the answer is yes. For employers, summary dismissal is where a staff member departs from a business due to an act of gross misconduct. This is because you terminate their contract. If you dismiss them, then there are responsibilities you need to keep in mind. These include:

  • Providing a valid reason for why you’re letting the employee go. Remember that’s important to justify your decision.
  • Showing that you’ve acted reasonably.
  • Displaying that you do have fair reasons for the dismissal.
  • Investigating the situation fully before reaching your decision.

Remember that if you go ahead with dismissal without disciplinary procedure considerations, then the employee can claim for unfair dismissal. That’s where you force them to leave without a fair process.

The termination of employment without notice

You can sack staff members without written warning in the event of an act of gross misconduct. Although, remember, dismissing an employee without providing a written warning if different to terminating their contract with no notice. Any of the following examples are worthy of instant dismissal without notice, although it can vary depending on your industry (and the discretion of you as an employer):

  • Deliberate damage to your property.
  • Physical fighting with other colleagues.
  • Acts of gross negligence.
  • Offering bribes (or accepting them).
  • Hate crimes, such as racist or sexist abuse.
  • Bullying or intimidating other members of staff.
  • Stealing from your business.
  • Arriving to work intoxicated on alcohol or drugs.
  • Committing fraud.

If an employee departs from work without notice due to summary dismissal, they can’t claim to work their notice period. You can check the Acas Code of Practice for discipline and grievance for more classification on this.

Acting reasonably during summary dismissals

Remember that it’s important to act reasonably during a dismissal. Even if your reason is fair and you’ve thoroughly investigated the need to let an employee go, you must follow the correct disciplinary process. There isn’t an exact legal definition for what is “reasonable”, but if your employee made an unfair dismissal claim (and they would have to be with your business for at least two years to do so) and it led to an employment tribunal, they would consider whether:

  • You did act fairly.
  • If there was a proper investigation.
  • Your procedures and if you followed them.
  • You allowed the employee the right to appeal.

Ensure your disciplinary rules and procedures are in your company handbook or employment contract. Your employees will then have a thorough understand of your company policies when they begin their role, which can help to control behaviour that would breach your rules.

In need of our help?

We can help your business deal with dismissal without notice. You can call us 24/7 for immediate assistance: 0800 028 2420.

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