You’re fired!

Employee Dismissal - What's the correct dismissal process?


We’ve all seen the way the bad managers get rid of people from the business (they usually end up in the news!) and with the likes of Alan Sugar being blasé when firing being it’s not surprising people often get the dismissal process wrong.

Official figures released yesterday (16th June 2020) show the number of workers on UK payrolls dived more than 600,000 between March and May and many of these along with many over the coming months will be as a result of redundancies.

Although, many businesses have tried to soldier on; with only a very dim light at the end of the tunnel and although the furlough scheme is continuing, due to the change and requirement in businesses to start paying there have been no options now but to start and conclude some redundancy processes.

A decision to run a redundancy process should not and is not normally taken lightly.  It should never be seen as an alternative/easier option than addressing poor performance and it is really important that you get it right.  If you don’t and you fail to follow a fair process you are at risk of claims from employees of unfair dismissal and failure to inform and consult.

I’ve been saying to my clients it’s not just about getting the process right for those staying though – these processes have a huge impact on those remaining too – anxietyam I nextGuiltwhy my colleague and not meAngerhow can they treat people like that?

Whether someone involved in a redundancy process is staying or going it is important to remember that they will be sharing messages about your company down the line.  You don’t want those that have left saying you treated them unfairly, claiming in an ET but also damaging your reputation on social media.  And you don’t want to upset the people staying so that when the market picks up, they jump ship as soon as they can.

So how do you get it right?  Below is the process we’d advise our clients to go through when they’re faced with reducing their headcount:

  • Prepare
    • Put together a business case – it doesn’t have to be a lengthy document, but it should cover:
      • The background – business position now, why we are here and what has been considered so far
      • The current structure
      • Proposed structure and the impact of this
      • The next steps
  • Company announcement sharing the current situation and business concerns. Confirm this is the start of the consultation period.
  • Issue letters to affected employees inviting them to individual consultation meeting. We’d recommend allowing them to be accompanied by a suitable work colleague or trade union representative.
  • Hold meetings with individual staff explaining position, future structure, the process, the timetable, share the selection criteria (if pooling is applicable), confirm at risk and reiterate we are now in the consultation period.
  • Issue individual letters confirming the conversation and that the employee is at risk.
  • Consider alternatives to redundancies suggested by employees, consider alternatives within the business too.
  • If no other options arise, management to score at risk people against redundancy criteria (if pooling is applicable) – ensuring where appropriate you have evidence to back up your scores. Where possible have at least two appropriate people scoring individuals against the criteria and total scores
  • Hold second redundancy meetings to confirm individual scores/position and the outcome of the redundancy process
  • Confirm in writing the right to appeal, details of the redundancies, the figures and agree the leave dates.
  • Confirm in writing to those no longer at risk.
  • Make an announcement to business to confirm leavers and the structure/any changes moving forward.
  • Regroup the rest of the business to set the scene for the next 3 months.

Throughout the process it is important that employees are given sufficient support and opportunity to input into and to consider the proposals.  The consultation has to be meaningful – not a done deal!

The length of time you have between meetings will depend on the individual circumstances and you may need to have more than two meetings but the above will hopefully give you an indication of the steps you need to be considering.

Please note, there are very specific rules and processes to follow if you are making over 20 employees redundant during a 90-day period and therefore you will need to ensure you follow a different process to the above.  If you are not sure what you need to do please do get advice before taking action.

Throughout the process ensure you record everything and follow your own contractual policies and procedures.

Remember, as we have said on numerous occasions people will not remember what you say or specifically what you did but they will remember how you made them feel.  Yes, it is a sh*t situation you’re all faced with but treat people fairly and humanely and the process will be much better for everyone.


This post was written by Theresa Cooper who is an HR Expert and currently runs CooperativeHR Ltd in West Sussex.

Theresa has been supporting clients locally for a number of years and is able to support business owners who do not want or need a full time HR resource.

Her aim is to enable business owners do business and not HR. Give her a call today on 01903 868502 or send her at to help you through your people


Please note that this update is a general overview.  The guidance does not represent legal advice and we recommend professional advice be sought before acting.