What is summary dismissal?

Certain offences at work are steps too far

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2024

Summary dismissal is where you dismiss someone ‘instantly’—meaning without notice, and without pay in lieu of notice (PILON).

Reasons for summary dismissal of an employee normally focus on an act of gross misconduct. When the employee commits the act, they destroy the trust between you and them.

Examples include:

  • Theft or fraud.
  • Damage to company property.
  • Setup of a competing business.
  • Serious breach of health & safety regulations.
  • Discrimination of another employee.
  • Harassment of another employee.

This list isn’t exhaustive.

Summary dismissal procedure

When you feel that a summary dismissal is your only option, you must still go through a fair procedure—just like you would for any other disciplinary matter.

The length of the fair procedure can mean that the ‘instant’ aspect of the dismissal isn’t quite as ‘fired on the spot’ as what you see on TV.

If you follow a fair procedure, an employment tribunal is less likely to find you guilty of an unfair dismissal.

Your procedure should look like this:

  • Make clear whether you'll suspend the employee.
  • Begin your investigation to find evidence that supports the allegation.
  • Ask any witnesses about the matter.
  • Invite the employee to a disciplinary hearing.
  • Hold the hearing.
  • Decide on the outcome.

Make sure you keep your employee on full pay if you suspend them unless their contract states that you don’t have to.

Keep it clear that a suspension isn’t a sanction.

Let them know they have the right to appeal any decision through your company appeals process.

Communicate your procedures to your staff

You should set out clear rules and standards of conduct in your business, and organise these rules into policies. Then, make sure your staff have a copy of all company policies.

To finish, give everyone a copy (email and hard copy) of a fair procedure that you will follow when someone breaks one or more of those rules. You should include any repercussions.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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