Summary Dismissal

What is a summary dismissal?

Summary dismissal is when an employee is dismissed from their job without any notice. They are paid only up until the time of their dismissal. Summary dismissal, also known as instant dismissal, can only be enforced in certain circumstances. These circumstances are limited, and it is important that you are aware of the potential legal implications before doing anything.

When is a summary dismissal justified?

A summary dismissal must only be when there has been instances of serious misconduct, such as:

  • Behaviour deliberately inconsistent with the employment contract;
  • conduct causing imminent and serious risk to a person’s health or safety or the employer’s reputation, viability or profitability;
  • theft;
  • fraud;
  • assault;
  • intoxication at work; and
  • an employee refusing to carry out a lawful and reasonable instruction that is consistent with the employee’s contract of employment.

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it provides an example for the type of behaviour that would be considered serious for an employer to consider a summary dismissal.

However, in light of this, an employer should think carefully before taking a summary dismissal action against an employee. If ineffectively managed or without the necessary evidence could result in a serious unfair dismissal claim against the employer. Therefore, a summary dismissal should only be enforced in limited and extreme situations.

Alternatives to a summary dismissal

With this in mind, an employer should work through the following steps with their employee before enforcing a summary dismissal action:

  1. Warn the employee about a termination meeting;
  2. Explain to the employee about why they are having the meeting;
  3. Encourage the employee to bring a representative to the meeting with them;
  4. Allow the employee a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the meeting;
  5. Complete a full investigation and obtain witnesses and witness statements; and
  6. Show the employee the evidence against them and give them the opportunity to explain, with sufficient time to properly respond.

These steps are particularly useful in ensuring there is not an unfair dismissal claim made against the employer who has provided ample opportunities for the employee to explain, as well as provided sufficient notice and warnings

More information on dismissals and employment law

A summary dismissal is only justifiable where the employee’s behaviour can be interpreted as a repudiation of his/her obligations as an employee. As an employer, you should have detailed policies and procedures in place to handle all types of dismissals, and should seek legal advice before you take any action.

If you require any further information about summary dismissal – whether you are an employer or employee – please reach out to our team of experienced lawyers.

Disclaimer: Information contained in this blog is not legal advice but is provided as general information only. You should seek independent legal advice on your particular circumstances before taking any action.

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