17th February 2014

Never Can Say Goodbye

Most employers do not enjoy dismissing employees.  This is understandable.

However, during the stress of conducting a formal hearing, many employers fall into the trap of not being direct enough with the employee about the reasons for dismissal.  Occasionally, in such situations, employers will omit to actually tell the employee the real reason for dismissal.

Do you require to tell a dismissed employee why they have been dismissed?

Yes.  Furthermore a dismissed employee has the right to request a statement of written reasons for the dismissal from his employer.

If an employee:-

– has more than two years’ qualifying service and
– makes a request for the reasons for dismissal,

an employer must provide the employee with a statement of written reasons for the dismissal within 14 days of the employee making this request.

What if you have already given written reasons in letter of dismissal?

It does not matter if the employer believes it has already provided the reasons for dismissal, the legislation still states that, if a request is made by the employee, the employer has a duty to provide written reasons within that 14 day period.  Similarly any previous correspondence from the employer to the employee does not automatically frustrate this duty.

What about pregnant employees or employees on maternity leave?

The law is slightly more onerous for pregnant employees and employees on maternity or adoptive leave.  Where an employee is dismissed whilst pregnant or whilst on maternity or adoptive leave, the entitlement to written reasons for dismissal arises automatically.  There is no need for the employee to have two years’ service or to make the request for this duty to arise.    

Are there any monetary sanctions for non-compliance?

Unfortunately if an employer either:-

– fails to provide written reasons to an employee with two years’ qualifying service (or more) who makes such a request,
– fails to provide written reasons to a dismissed employee who is pregnant or on maternity/adoptive leave, or
– gives written reasons for dismissal which are inadequate or untrue

a tribunal can made an award of compensation to the employee of up to two weeks’ pay.

In such circumstances, a week’s pay is not capped at the usual £450 and is instead based on the employee’s actual pay.

In conclusion employers should exercise caution when saying goodbye to employees.  Employers should certainly know the reasons for the goodbye and best practice is to make sure that these reasons are known to the employee too!

Simon Allison 
Partner – Employment Law

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