Persistent under-performers can drag down your business, but you need to follow the letter of the law if you want to sack them without costly repercussions.
Staff can sue for unfair dismissal
Under UK law, employees who have one year's continuous employment can bring an unfair dismissal claim within three months of being sacked.
To protect themselves from a claim, employers need to have a "fair" reason for the dismissal.
A fair reason would include:
the employee not being qualified for or capable of doing the job
- conduct falling below required standards (for example, being drunk or abusive at work), and
- redundancy or legal reasons (such as an expired work permit).
Employers must not discriminate on grounds of race or gender.
For example, you cannot dismiss a female member of staff because she is pregnant or on maternity leave.
Under UK law this is automatically deemed to be an unfair dismissal and employers may be liable to pay unlimited compensation.
Having a fair reason to dismiss someone is not enough, however.
Employers must also use a fair procedure during the dismissal process.
Employers should ensure that employees are given a fair hearing and reasonable warnings before reaching the dismissal stage.
If company procedures specify that staff must be given one oral and two written warnings, one written warning will not be sufficient.
Make employment terms and conditions clear
Inform staff in writing about grievances
Have a formal disciplinary procedure in place
Offer staff a chance to appeal
Whether the dismissal is fair or not, employees can bring a claim for wrongful dismissal if the employer has broken its employment contract with the employee.
The most common breaches occur where employees are dismissed without adequate notice (unless the employer has evidence of a serious breach of conduct, such as theft), or where disciplinary procedures have not been followed.