How to fire your employee and stay within the law

Taking on employees brings a lot of new challenges, and it gives you a lot more to think about as a business owner. Firing them can be one of the most tricky things to navigate, as you don’t want to be accused of unfair dismissal or of breaking the law. Here are the things you need to take into account before you make your final decision about an employee’s future.

Check your contract and workplace policies

You should have a contract for the employee stating the terms of their employment, as well as policies such as your code of conduct which all employees should be made aware of. The first thing to do is to check what your own policies say. Have they broken the terms of their own employment? Do you have a policy in place that states you should discipline them or give them a written warning for their first offence? Make sure that you aren’t contravening your own policies, as this could result in legal action. You can also consult with a lawyer to ensure that your policies and contracts don’t contradict your country’s employment law, especially considering that rules can be different for teenage employees or those who haven’t been with the company for a long while.

Eliminate discrimination

Is there anything about your decision to fire your employee that could be considered discrimination? You should be firing them as a result of their performance at work and their actions, rather than something more personal. Firing someone as a result of their skin colour or race, religion and religious requirements, sexual orientation, a pregnancy or illness, or so on, is likely to land you in hot water. Firing them because they have failed to fulfil their contracted work duties, on the other hand, will normally be legal – so long as your contracts and expectations are.

Document issues and actions

Make sure that you keep a record of any problems that come up with any employee. You should have a written or digital documentation of anything done wrong, however small it may seem at the time. There should also be a notation of the action taken against the employee at every point, whether it’s an informal warning or a more formal part of your disciplinary process. This will allow you to prove that an employee was doing wrong and deserved to be fired if they should choose to take legal action against you. Remember to always include date information and any proof that you may have, such as video footage or documents. Never dispose of these documents after an employee leaves, as you may need them in the near future.

 Understand pay requirements

Do you need to pay your employee anything extra than the days that they have worked? You may be surprised to find that you do. They might have lieu time owing on their file, which they will need to be compensated for. According to the rules of your organisation or country, you might have to give them a set period of notice before they leave their job. Many companies choose to put their employees on gardening leave for this period – paying them to stay at home so that they can’t disrupt the rest of the workforce.

Firing an employee is all about understanding both their rights and yours. You need to know what your legal standpoint is, and whether you are firing them for reasons that are legally acceptable. If they are, and you follow the correct procedure, you should be fine for legal purposes.

The article has been written for Times of Startups by Lucy Taylor. Lucy is an avid blogger who enjoys sharing her tips and suggestions with her online readers. Working as a legal expert at LY Lawyers, Lucy often helps people dealing with legal problems, addictions and crime.

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