Dismissal Without Notice in the UK

By Matthew Reymes Cole
15 Dec 2020

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 entitlement law grants an employee is a paid notice period. This can prove difficult for you, as an employee who knows they are leaving may not be the most committed or productive. This can disrupt other employees, affecting the whole of the 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.

Let’s look at instances where employment law permits dismissal without warning.

Dismissal and notice periods

Dismissal is when you end an employee's contract of employment with you. To avoid 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.

Normally, there must be a notice period. Law states you 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 least 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.

Summary dismissal

We will justify summary dismissal where the employee's actions show a serious breach of the 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.

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 and are not eligible to receive notice pay, either statutory or contractual.

What makes up 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.

How to ensure it’s a fair summary dismissal

Remember that 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.

  • Providing a valid reason you’re letting the employee go. Remember, that’s important to justify your decision.
  • Showing that you’ve acted reasonably.
  • Displaying that you have fair reasons for the dismissal.
  • Investigating the situation fully before reaching your decision.

The employee can claim for unfair dismissal if dismissed without disciplinary procedure considerations.  That’s where you force them to leave without a fair process.

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 warning, depending on the contract.

If an agency worker is dismissed without notice, ensure that:

  • The contract doesn’t forbid it
  • They’re not an employee of the agency and have been an employee for at least 1 month

Expert support

If you need expert support on gross misconduct, dismissal without notice or the disciplinary process, Croner is here to help.

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 overseas a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.

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