4 Legally Acceptable Reasons for Dismissal

An important part of managing your workforce is knowing when an employee needs dismissing. As speaker Darren Maw discussed at a recent MD2MD event, most seasoned managers and business leaders will have experienced this at one point or another throughout their managerial careers.

In this blog post, Darren outlines 4 legally acceptable reasons for dismissal.

An employee unwilling or incapable of performing their required duties becomes a drain on your company’s resources, productivity and even team morale, depending on the specifics surrounding their circumstances. Difficult employees can also represent a threat to your authority.

Equally important, however, is understanding when you’re in a position to dismiss someone. Dismissal is serious and as such requires care and consideration.

Outlined below are four legally acceptable reasons to dismiss an employee.

legally acceptable reasons for dismissal

Conduct (and Gross Misconduct)

Most terms of employment are dependent on an individual’s ability to meet certain criteria. These criteria are the measures by which an employee’s progress can be gauged; enabling performance tracking, accountability, areas of excellence and areas of underperformance to be highlighted by you and your management teams.

There are any number of reasons why an employee’s conduct might be compromised. They may not be able to do their job properly if, for example:

  • They haven’t been able to keep up with important changes to their job role. This could include new computer systems or other technical advancements.
  • They can’t get along with their colleagues.
  • Their attitude towards work is consistently negative.
  • They are consistently late to work, early to leave or take extended breaks.
  • They are struggling with the essential requirements of the role.

Following correct disciplinary procedures demonstrates to any third-parties that your employee facing dismissal has been approached, offered second chances and advised about how they might improve their conduct. In essence, they have been properly managed to help prevent their conduct slipping to an unacceptable level. If unacceptable conduct continues, the employee can then be rightly dismissed.

Gross misconduct is a much more severe example, characterised as “behaviour, on the part of an employee, which is so bad that it destroys the employer/employee relationship and merits instant dismissal without notice or pay in lieu of notice.” Because of this, it often bypasses established disciplinary procedures, leading to instant dismissal.

Capability (including health)

Sometimes an employee’s capability is compromised through no fault of their own. While regrettable, an employee can be dismissed if they have a persistent or long-term illness that makes it impossible for them to do their job.

Before taking any action, you should:

  • Look for ways to support your employee – is their illness unfortunate, or has the job role itself made your employee sick?
  • Give your employee reasonable time to recover from their illness.

If your employee has a disability (which may include long-term illness, depending on the specific condition and the circumstances surrounding this), you have a legal obligation to support them.

Dismissal because of a disability may be unlawful discrimination.


Redundancy is a form of dismissal and in most cases it is legally acceptable. It occurs when you find yourself needing to reduce your workforce. An employee facing redundancy might be eligible for certain rights, including:

  • Redundancy pay
  • A notice period
  • A consultation with you
  • The option to move into a different job
  • Time off to find a new job

Your employee must be selected for redundancy in a fair way, usually because of their brief level of experience, their short time with the company or their performance records. You can’t select employees based on age, gender, or disability, for example.

Statutory Ban

A statutory restriction occurs if continuing to employ an individual would result in breaking the law. If one of your van drivers loses their driving license, they will be unable to legally meet their job requirements. In this instance, dismissal is fair, as your employee is incapable of continuing to meet their basic job requirements.

Understanding fair dismissal is paramount to your development as a strong manager and business leader. Quick resources can be found here and here, if you would like to read further into the legislature. Alternatively, discussing the issue with other managing directors at one of our MD2MD leadership sessions is an excellent way of gaining real life experience from similarly-positioned company leaders.

Know your rights – and those of your employees.

Written by professional speaker, Darren Maw.

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