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Immediate dismissal meaning and examples

In most situations, an employer must provide notice of their intention to terminate an employee's employment or pay them in lieu of notice. However, some circumstances warrant immediate dismissal, meaning an employer can dismiss an employee without following the usual procedure.

What is immediate dismissal?

Immediate dismissal (also called summary dismissal and instant dismissal) is the most severe form of disciplinary action an employer can take. When an employer is faced with an employee who has committed a serious offense or failure to meet job expectations, they have the option to terminate their employment effective immediately and without any payment instead of a period of notice.

For an employer to legally terminate an employee's contract with immediate effect, the employee's conduct must be so serious that it amounts to gross misconduct or a serious breach of company policy.

Gross misconduct is behavior that is so unacceptable in the workplace that it results in the immediate loss of trust and confidence in the employee. This can vary across different workplaces, but gross misconduct typically includes offenses that put the business at risk, endanger the safety of employees and customers, or break the law.

What are examples of immediate dismissal?

Examples of behavior that can give employers reasons for summary dismissal include:

  • Theft, fraud, or embezzlement: this includes theft of property, intellectual property, and stealing from clients.

  • Violence or threats of violence: this includes threatening violence and verbal assault as well as physical violence.

  • Sexual harassment or assault: physical, visual, and verbal sexual harassment are all grounds for summary dismissal.

  • Use or possession of drugs or alcohol: this includes using, possessing, and distributing illegal drugs and in some cases, prescription drugs and alcohol.

  • Serious breach of company policy: this varies depending on the industry and specific workplace but it usually encompasses actions that are a danger to the business and the people associated with it.

  • Breaking the law: this can include any criminal act, even if it happens outside of work and doesn't result in a conviction.

  • Gross negligence: unintentional actions, such as those that result in serious health and safety breaches, can sometimes warrant immediate dismissal.

This list is not exhaustive and what is considered gross misconduct in one workplace may not be in another. Regardless of the industry or workplace, an employer must have a valid reason to dismiss an employee without notice. Without one, an employee is within their rights to make an unfair or wrongful dismissal claim against the employer.

What happens when an employee is given an immediate dismissal?

When an employer has grounds for immediate dismissal, meaning they want to end the employee's contract of employment without notice, it's important they follow the correct procedure.

Here are the basic steps for carrying out an immediate dismissal:

  1. Investigate the allegations for immediate dismissal: This may involve speaking to witnesses and reviewing any evidence, such as security footage.

  2. Inform the employee of your intentions: Be clear about their immediate dismissal and the reasons for it.

  3. Give the employee the opportunity to explain their side: Ensure that someone from HR and/or union official is present in this meeting.

  4. Make a final decision: if you decide to go ahead with the dismissal, provide written notice in a formal letter of termination.

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