Staff With Short Service – Can I Just Fire Them?

The short answer? Yes.  

The long answer? Well that’s a little bit more complicated. 

Whether it’s a case of misconduct or a performance issue, an instant resolution can be tempting when an employee just isn’t up to standard. After all, everyone knows that an employee must have two years’ service before they can claim unfair dismissal - but that doesn’t mean an instant dismissal is a good idea.  

You might think you’re protected by the length of service and in some ways, you are, but dismissing someone without following the set procedure can open your company up to other forms of challenges.  

There are numerous types of dismissal that are automatically unfair, regardless of how long your employee has been with the company, for example if the reason for their dismissal could be associated with a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010). 

There’s also the chance that the dismissed employee could claim a breach of contract if you fail to follow procedure, so its always a good idea to keep in line with your policies and legislation. If it’s a case of misconduct, go through the disciplinary procedure. Investigate the allegations thoroughly and make an informed decision. If it’s a performance issue, then attempting to performance manage the employee is always recommended before resorting to dismissal. 

Beyond that, implementing and utilising a probation period is the best way to avoid the potential problems that arise from dismissal. Probations can be a fantastic asset to your company, allowing you valuable time to assess the suitability of a new employee, but it’s a tool that is often under or misused.  

Give the employee a clear set of targets and expectations from the get go, if they fail to meet them then extending the probation can give you further protection. You should still collect evidence of poor performance to discuss with the employee but if you are confident that the dismissal could not be construed as automatically unfair, then you only need to fulfil your obligations regarding the notice period before their employment is ended.  

If you’re unsure, the best course of action is always to ask for HR advice. This covers the company’s back legally and can also help you enter into the process in a more confident, knowledgeable manner. 

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