Can You Sack Someone Without Warning?

By Matthew Reymes Cole
09 Sep 2022

Termination of an employee’s contract is, sadly, a part of running a business. Not only is it a difficult and unpleasant decision, but there are also several laws relating to it that employers need to be aware of.

One right that employment law grants an employee is a paid notice period. This can prove difficult to manage, as an employee who knows they are leaving may not be the most committed or productive. This can disrupt other employees, affecting the whole business.

As an employer, you may ask: can I dismiss an employee without notice? In short, yes. There are some instances where employees can be dismissed from work without notice.

In this article, we’ll determine whether employment law permits dismissal without warning. We’ll also analyse the risk of firing an employee immediately, and how you can ensure a fair dismissal process.

If you need immediate advice on the end of an employment contract, speak to one of our HR advisors today on 01455 858 132.


dismissal without notice UK


Dismissal and notice periods

Can an employee be sacked without warning? No. However, they can be fired without a notice period.

Dismissal is when you end an employee's contract of employment with you. When you dismiss an employee, you must show that you’ve done the following:

  • Used a valid reason that you can justify.
  • Acted reasonably in the circumstances.

You must also:

  • Be consistent: for example, don’t dismiss an employee for doing something that you’ve let other employees do.
  • Investigate the situation fully before dismissing them: for example, if an employee made a complaint about them.
  • Ensure equal treatment: don’t treat them less favourably than full-time employees if they are a part-time or fixed-term worker. This also applies to anyone with a protected characteristic.

Normally, there must be a notice period. Law states you must give an employee at least the notice stated in their contract or the statutory minimum notice period, whichever is longer.

The statutory minimum is at one week's notice if employed between one month and 2 years. One week's notice for each year if employed between 2 and 12 years. 12 weeks' notice if employed for 12 years or more.

An employee dismissed without proper notice can claim wrongful dismissal. Unless they are being summarily dismissed.

Reasons to fire an employee immediately—without notice

When asking the question: “can you sack someone without a warning?” the main factor you need to consider is whether the decision to terminate immediately is fair. This will depend largely on the reason behind the dismissal.

Summary dismissal

Summary dismissal is where the employee's actions show a serious breach of their contract. This includes proof that further continuance of the relationship is impossible.

This usually ends up being dismissal for gross misconduct. Employment law only allows an employee to be dismissed without notice when there have been instances of gross misconduct. However, to determine whether gross misconduct has occurred, you’ll need to follow a full and thorough disciplinary process.

Summary dismissal lets go of an employee without notice or without payment in lieu of notice. This means that you only pay them up to the date of the dismissal. They are not eligible to receive notice pay, either statutory or contractual.

Gross misconduct

Acts of gross misconduct at work may include:

  • Theft
  • Violence
  • Fraud
  • Intoxication at work
  • Inappropriate behaviour towards work colleagues
  • Putting other work colleagues at risk through health and safety issues

Having said this, you must go through the proper procedures to dismiss the employee.

If you’re uncertain whether your employee’s behaviour amounts to gross misconduct, speak to one of our HR experts today on 01455 858 132.


sacking someone without warning


How to ensure it’s a fair summary dismissal

Firing an employee without warning carries a significant amount of risk.

That’s why 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.

This is what you should do to ensure you avoid unfair dismissal, as the tribunal looks at these areas:

  • Provide a valid reason you’re letting the employee go. Remember, it’s important to justify your decision.
  • Show that you’ve acted reasonably.
  • Display that you have fair reasons for the dismissal.
  • Investigate the situation fully before reaching your decision.

The employee can claim for unfair dismissal if dismissed without disciplinary procedure considerations.  In other words, if you fail to follow a fair process, they’re likely to raise a claim against you.

Documentation plays a big part in ensuring your process is fair. For example, you’ll need meeting notes to evidence the fact you met with the staff member and held discussions with them. Official letters are also important. You can download some, such as an immediate termination letter to employee and worker alike, by clicking here.

Notice periods and agency workers

You or the agency worker don’t have to give the notice to end an assignment early. The exception is unless it's clearly written in the contract or assignment information. Usually, you need to tell them in writing, through a written notification, depending on the contract.

If an agency worker is dismissed without notice, you must ensure that the contract doesn’t forbid it.

Expert support

So, can you fire someone without warning? No. Can you fire someone without notice? Yes.

That doesn’t mean you should immediately dismiss that employee you don’t like. For a dismissal to be fair, there has to be a legitimate reason, and a fair process must be followed.

Failure to do this can lead to claims of unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, or discrimination and can lead to costly fines and reputational damage.

So, If you need expert support on gross misconduct, dismissal without notice or the disciplinary process, our HR advisors are here to help. Just call 01455 858 132 to receive free initial advice today.

About the Author

Matthew Reymes-Cole

Matt joined Croner in 2007 as an employment law consultant and has advised clients of all sizes on all aspects of employment law. He has worked within management positions since 2017 and currently oversees a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.

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