What is Summary Dismissal?

What is Summary Dismissal?

In a nutshell, summary dismissal is dismissal without notice.

When an employee commits (allegedly) an act of gross misconduct, it may amount to a fundamental breach of the terms & conditions of employment and as such justify summary dismissal.

If you are responsible for HR and employment matters, it’s worth taking a moment to understand in practice what is really meant by summary dismissal.

Gross Misconduct

Gross misconduct is a potentially fair reason for dismissal.

There is no statutory definition of what amounts to gross misconduct. As an employer you determine what  conduct displayed by an employee amounts to an act of gross misconduct. A few examples are:

  • Theft
  • Fraud
  • Fighting
  • Breach of health & safety rules

Your disciplinary procedure will set the standards of performance and behaviour you expect from your employees and the possible consequences of failing to follow it.  Without this procedure and rules a summary dismissal decision could be challenged by an employee.

In the event of an allegation of gross misconduct, you may wish to suspend, it is essential to ensure there is a right to do so in your procedure. When considering suspension, identify what harm the employee would or could do by remaining in work, suspension should be a last resort. Some employers are unaware that the employee should be paid during a period of suspension, remember at this stage you have not reached a decision identifying if your employee is guilty or not.

Unfair Dismissal Claim

If you fail to follow your own procedure you will put your business at risk of an unfair dismissal claim if your employee has 2 years’ service. 

Did you know that an employee may be able to claim unfair dismissal with less than 2 years’ service if it is for an automatically unfair reason such as raising a health & safety issue.

Wrongful Dismissal Claim

Wrongful dismissal  is where a breach of contract has occurred which in a summary dismissal situation is likely to be for notice and any benefits due to the employee had notice been served.

There is no minimum length of service required for a breach of contract claim.

So, What is a True Summary Dismissal?

This occurs where an employee is dismissed for an act of gross misconduct AFTER the alleged act/incident has been investigated in line with the employer’s disciplinary procedure and the employee is given the opportunity to present his/her version of events to the employer.

Summary dismissal means dismissal WITHOUT notice and NOT on the ‘spot’.


Review your disciplinary procedure, is it up to date and does it help you to run your business efficiently?

Consider this: have you clearly identified what you deem to be acts of misconduct and gross misconduct and the consequences of breaching these rules.

A disciplinary policy and procedure will help you manage your employees and provide a defence against unfair dismissal claims. If you don’t have this in place or need some guidance and help, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Jude Read-HR Consultancy 01455 231982 | 07716 918272.

Employment Documents, Gross Misconduct, Summary Dismissal, Unfair Dismissal Claim, Wrongful Dismissal Claim

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