What is Summary Dismissal in the UK?

By Andrew Willis
18 Sep 2020

Occasionally, one of your employees may breach your internal conduct policy. An act of gross misconduct will normally result in instant dismissal, referred to as a summary dismissal.

In this article, Croner explores the use of a summary dismissal to terminate an employment contract. As an employer, find out the correct disciplinary process and the steps required to dismiss an employee correctly, avoiding a costly tribunal claim.

If you're an employer looking for specific support on a summary dismissal why not contact Croner's award-winning team of advisors on 0145 585 8132.

What is summary dismissal?

The summary dismissal definition outlined by the government is when an employer dismisses someone instantly, without notice or pay in lieu of notice (PILON.) This is normally due to gross misconduct. Employers must follow correct procedure when it comes to summary dismissals in order to avoid a wrongful dismissal claim which results in a tribunal.

Does this mean I can dismiss the employee immediately?

If you're a business owner, it may be tempting to be swayed by TV shows or movies showing a boss "fire" an employee on the spot. In truth, this is rarely how it works.

You still need to follow a fair procedure when issuing a summary dismissal, meaning you can’t tell someone they’re dismissed and hope they go away.

This means the employee won’t leave your business instantly… so what does it mean?


What does summary dismissal mean for employees?

As highlighted by the government outline, the things that define summary dismissals are gross misconduct, being dismissed without notice and PILON.

However, as with all cases of gross misconduct, you need to conduct an investigation as part of a fair disciplinary procedure. This can take some time. Dismissing the employee prior to an investigation is likely to result in a claim of unfair dismissal.

If you’re worried the employee’s presence in the workplace will disrupt or impede the investigation, you might be able to suspend them until the disciplinary procedure is completed. This might mean placing an employee on garden leave.

However, a suspension should never be a punishment. You should make this clear to the employee if you choose to suspend them to maintain trust and confidence between employer and employee.

But what are the grounds for this? There are a few. Some summary dismissal examples include:

  • Theft or fraud
  • Damage to company property
  • Setup of a competing business
  • Serious workplace health & safety breaches
  • Possessing/Using illegal substances at work
  • Discrimination against colleagues
  • Harassment of colleagues

It’s important to note this list isn’t exhaustive.

There are many summary dismissal cases you can draw on in employment law. But one pertinent case is that of Mbubaegbu v Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The reason? This case highlighted that a series of acts of misconduct can constitute as gross misconduct.

If you're considering dismissing an employee for this reason we would urge caution. Speak to one of our award-winning employment law specialists on 0145 585 8132 for clarity.

The difference between dismissal and summary dismissal

The fundamental difference between a regular dismissal and a summary dismissal is the lack of notice periods.



Also, you can only perform a summary dismissal in response to gross misconduct. In all other aspects, they’re the same.

In particular, you always need to follow a fair procedure, regardless of the reason.

What is the summary dismissal procedure?

The framework of your dismissal procedure leading up to a dismissal should look something like this:

  • Make clear that you’re intending to suspend the employee
  • Begin an investigation into the allegations
  • Ask witnesses about the incident/behaviour
  • Invite the employee to a disciplinary hearing
  • Hold the hearing
  • Decide the outcome
  • Inform the employee of your decision and their right to appeal


The summary dismissal procedure in the UK can involve suspension, though we usually advise against the suspension.

You should keep the suspended employee on full pay unless their contract states you don’t have to, so you don’t risk a breach of contract.


Summary dismissal & holiday pay

If you summarily dismiss an employee, the law entitles them to their pay to the date of the dismissal.

This includes any statutory holiday entitlement they’ve accrued but not taken. If the contract states otherwise, you can only withhold pay in holiday pay that exceeds the statutory minimum (5.6 weeks).

Summary dismissal letter

Even though you don’t have to give notice, you must still issue a summary dismissal letter due to UK This acts as confirmation of everything in the process.

The letter should include all the relevant information and justify the summary dismissal. You need to inform them of their final day of employment and remind them of their right to appeal.

The best way to ensure you get your letter correct is to use an existing summary dismissal letter template. To get expert HR support, contact Croner today on 0145 585 8132.


Employee clears desk after summary dismissalEmployee clears desk after summary dismissal

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.





Get expert views & insights delivered directly to your inbox