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Dismissing an employee: taking the right steps

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

Two recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) cases highlight some of the issues a business needs to consider when contemplating dismissing an employee.

The first case is a reminder to employers that contractual termination provisions must be clearly drafted and will be interpreted according to general contractual principles regarding repudiatory breach. The EAT held that an employer was not entitled to rely on a contractual termination provision to dismiss an employee without notice for breach of its customer’s security requirements. Although the employee had breached those requirements, the EAT interpreted the termination provision against the backdrop of the general principle that a summary dismissal is not justified unless there has been gross misconduct or gross negligence.

In the second, the EAT found that an employer who had dismissed an employee for gross misconduct was not required to follow the decision of an independent panel, who had heard the employee’s appeal and which overturned the employer’s decision to dismiss. The fact that the employer did not implement the panel’s decision did not render the dismissal unfair. This case shows that an employer, who has outsourced its appeal process to an independent panel, will not always be bound to implement the panel’s decision. Nevertheless, the decision should not be seen as carte blanche for employers to disregard such appeal decisions.

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