You must have a valid reason for dismissing an employee. Valid reasons include:

  • their capabilty or conduct
  • redundancy
  • something that prevents them from legally being able to do their job, eg a driver losing their driving licence

There could be other fair reasons too – these are sometimes called ‘other substantial reasons’.  For example, you take on an employee to provide temporary maternity cover and dismiss them when the cover period ends. The dismissal is fair if you made it clear at the start of their placement that the job was only temporary.

Acting reasonably
Even if you have a fair reason, the dismissal is only fair if you also act reasonably during the dismissal and disciplinary process.  There’s no legal definition of ‘reasonableness’, but if you’re taken to an employment or industrial tribunal they would consider whether you:

  • genuinely believed that the reason was fair
  • carried out proper investigations where appropriate
  • followed the relevant procedures
  • told the employee why they were being considered for dismissal and listened to their views (in Northern Ireland, the employer must do this in writing)
  • allowed the employee to be accompanied at disciplinary/dismissal hearings
  • gave the employee the chance to appeal

Reasonableness might also depend on whether the employee could be expected to understand the consequences of their behaviour.

If you would like to discuss this article in more detail with one of our independent financial advisers, please contact us.