As any employer would know, dismissing an employee is something that must not be taken lightly. Unfortunately however, there are some circumstances in which dismissal is the only option and in such circumstances, it is vital that you take all the necessary precautions. Workplace relations laws are quite tight in Australia and this is important in the protection of workers’ rights across the country.
What it also means is that employers have to follow several guidelines before dismissing an employee, to ensure that the employee’s rights are upheld. Dismissal can become necessary for a number of reasons and each reason requires a specific approach to dismissal. Whether you are dismissing an employee on grounds of redundancy, misconduct or even unproductivity, you still have to approach the situation with caution.
In essence, the dismissal processes that are imposed on employers serve to ensure that employees receive adequate notification of their impending dismissal. As well as this, employment laws demand that you, as an employer, provide your employees with an opportunity to rectify any of their shortcomings, before dismissing them – except in instances of serious misconduct. The detailed and intricate nature of these laws means that they can be a little difficult to interpret sometimes. For this reason, you ought to seek legal advice if you are unsure of the correct course of action, when dismissing an employee.
The importance of a fair employee dismissal process
When you are approaching the employee dismissal process, it is important to be mindful of your employee’s rights. Employment laws are put in place to protect the rights of employees, which means that violating workers’ rights will not only be unethical, but it will also place you at risk of legal repercussions. It is with this in mind that you should approach the dismissal process. It is common practice for many employees to develop a dismissal process that is adopted as a part of company policy. This makes it easier for you to manage your employees and address any redundancies or failures to meet company expectations, in a way that is fair and just. It is also helpful to you, as an employer, to ensure that your expectations are set out clearly to your employees. Most companies do this by way of a readily available code of conduct and this is usually effective.
The above mentioned precautions are a great way to place you and your business in a strong position to manage any employee dismissals effectively. They also ensure that you have a solid legal foundation from which to justify any employee dismissals. This is of paramount importance, as any failure to meet the standards outlined in the relevant law can leave you susceptible to legal action. This is relatively uncommon, as employers are generally quite diligent when it comes to fair dismissal processes, however it is better to be safe than sorry. Legal claims surrounding unfair dismissals can be devastating for any business, as the cost of fines and legal representation are very high. On top of this, unfair dismissal claims can effect your reputation and the reputation of your business.
Three important steps in the employee dismissal process
There are several stages that all employers must undertake before dismissing an employee. These stages can be summarised in three neat points, however it is absolutely imperative that you seek professional legal advice on any points of confusion. The laws surrounding employee dismissal can be quite complex and extensive, which is why it is often a good idea to get some professional advice before you commence with the dismissal process. It is also important to note that dismissal on the grounds of redundancy requires a unique dismissal process.
#1 Highlight company standards and identify any issues with an employee
The first step of dealing with the potential dismissal of any employee is to highlight company standards and compare that to the work behaviour of the employee in question. This step serves to ensure that your employee is fully aware of your expectations and also aware of any areas in which they may be failing to meet expectations. This is where a written code of conduct, or a written description of the employee’s role in your business can be useful. If a code of conduct and job description is accessible to your employee, then it is more likely that your employees will meet what is expected of them. If they don’t however, you must ensure that you have raised the issue with them. Normally, this can be done informally at first instance, although if the issue persists, you will have to take further action.
#2 Issue your employee with written warnings
If informal discussions with your employees have failed, and they continue to fall short of your company’s standards – which have been outlined to them – then you will need to issue a written warning. Written warnings are one of the most important stages of an employee dismissal process, and this is the area in which many employers are caught out. Employment law in Australia states that employers must provide employees with at least one letter of warning before they can dismiss them. Furthermore, the law sets out a few things that must be included in the written warning. These features include an outline of the inappropriate or insufficient conduct, a few methods with which to improve on these areas, the consequences of failing to meet expectation and an overview of the expectations in question. You should clarify the contents of your written warning with a legal professional, to ensure that you cannot be held liable for unfair dismissal.
#3 Letter of termination
To dismiss an employee, all of the previous steps must be completed. If these fail, then you are within your rights to present your employee with a letter of termination. Much like your written warnings, this letter must legally contain a number of important points. These points include the reason for which you are dismissing the employee, a period of notice or sum of reimbursement, the date of their final day and some information on their final paycheck and its possible effect on their eligibility for Centrelink payments. Again, it is important that you clarify the contents of your letter with a legal professional.
For more information on the employee dismissal process, get in touch with the experts at Fairly today.