Summary dismissal

09 July 2019

Summary dismissal is used when you decide to instantly terminate a worker’s employment.

You and your employees should fully understand what type of behaviour or conduct leads to this type of dismissal.

If they feel your decision was unlawful, they could raise an unfair dismissal claim. This can result in legal hearings, costly compensation claims, and have a negative effect on job retention.

In this guide, we’ll explain the meaning of summary dismissals and how to correctly action them.

What is summary dismissal?

Summary dismissal in the UK is when you dismiss someone instantly – without notice pay. It’s sometimes referred to as instant dismissal.

You need to make sure your reasons are lawful before actioning a dismissal without notice. So, summary dismissal offences generally relate to cases of gross misconduct.

What’s the difference between dismissal and summary dismissal?

The main difference is that you don’t have to issue notice periods within a summary dismissal.

In a regular dismissal, employees are entitled to a statutory or contractual period of notice. But in a summary dismissal, they can be dismissed without notice or pay in lieu of notice (PILON).

Grounds for summary dismissal

Summery dismissal in employment law come under the Employment Rights Act (1996). The act states that every employee has a right to not be unfairly dismissed. You must show genuine reasons when terminating their employment contract.

Because you can only action a summary dismissal for gross misconduct, you should outline the different types of misconduct in your employee handbook.

Summary dismissal examples and incidents commonly include deliberate behaviour which causes serious risk to:

  • The health & safety of a person; or
  • The reputation, capability, or profitability of your company.

Some summary or instant dismissal offences can include:

  • Theft and fraud.
  • Indecent behaviour, like sexist or racist remarks.
  • Physical violence or threats of violence.
  • Serious breach to health & safety.
  • Misuse or damage to company property.
  • Setup of a rival company.
  • Intoxication in the workplace.
  • Possession/usage of illegal substances.
  • Discrimination and harassment.

When is summary dismissal unlawful?

If you issue summary dismissals for cases that don’t class as gross misconduct, it may be considered unlawful.

There are many things that may cause problems in your workplace, but they aren’t all summary dismissal. Such as:

  • Repeated lateness.
  • Repeated absences.
  • Under-performing work tasks.

It would be unfair to issue a summary dismissal for such behaviour. This can result in costly tribunals, compensation payments, and business disruption.

How to action summary dismissal for misconduct

Summary dismissal must follow a fair procedure and investigation. This is the same for all types of misconduct.

Firstly, you must provide a letter and it should outline your reasons for summary dismissal. The letter should also include rights to appeal.

Your summary dismissal should follow this process:

  • Start the investigation into the misconduct.
  • Inform the employee they are being suspended.
  • Interview witness about the incident.
  • Invite the employee to a disciplinary hearing.
  • Inform the employee about your final decision.

Do you get paid if sacked for gross misconduct?

You must pay an employee’s wages until the date of their dismissal.

Summary dismissal payment includes statutory holiday pay entitlements. You can withhold holiday pay that exceeds the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks, if there’s a contractual clause which allows this.

Expert support on summary dismissals with Peninsula

Summary dismissals should only be used as a last resort. You should try all methods of workplace discipline before terminating contracts.

But you do decide on this, aim to stick to a fair dismissal process and investigation. And make sure employees are fully aware of your reasons, but also their rights to appeal against summary dismissal.

Remember, without this, you could face costly penalties and tribunal hearings.

Peninsula can help you with avoiding contract breaches and dismissal errors. If you need assistance with employment contracts and terminations, Peninsula can walk you through the process.

It’s important to treat your staff fairly, whilst complying with employment laws. Contact us for guidance on any HR or employment law issues. Or request a call back for a time that suits you. Get in touch for immediate assistance by calling 0800 028 2420.

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