Short service dismissal: How to follow fair dismissal procedures

Last updated: June 21st, 2022

Short service dismissal is an employer query our HR consultants deal with on a regular basis.

Not merely an issue that business owners deal with after a busy period, short service dismissal is instead an everyday type of dismissal. For example, it doesn’t apply only to seasonal staff, but instead to the dismissal of an employee who has worked for a business for a short while.

And, as with any other time you’re dismissing an employee, you must follow a fair dismissal procedure…

The need to follow a fair dismissal procedure

You can end a staff member’s employment with your business at any time. However, the dismissal must be fair. If not, you run the risk of an unfair dismissal.

Staff typically need 12 months of continuous service before they’re able to raise a claim of unfair dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2005. Still, there are exclusions to this rule and in particular cases, a staff member can bring a claim before the Workplace Relations Commission without the need to satisfy this requirement.

Article: How an effective redundancy procedure can prevent a claim for unfair dismissal

Exemptions to unfair short service dismissal

As we’ve previously mentioned, 12 months of continuous service generally applies before an employee can claim for unfair dismissal in Ireland. However, it’s best to always approach the dismissal process with caution.

That’s because ex-employees can claim for ‘automatically unfair’ or discriminatory dismissal. This is when the dismissal breaches certain ‘discriminatory’ grounds, including:

  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Religious beliefs
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Membership of the Traveller community

The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 prohibits discrimination under the grounds listed above.

Article: Why your Dignity and Respect at Work policy is so important

How to avoid unfair dismissal in Ireland

It’s essential that you follow a fair procedure when dismissing an employee. That’s because employees don’t need qualifying service if they were dismissed due to:

  • Unfair selection for redundancy.
  • Trade union membership.
  • The exercise or proposed exercise of the right to any form of protective leave or antenatal care absence under maternity protection legislation.
  • Legal proceedings against an employer where you are a party or a witness.
  • Making a protected disclosure under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.

Follow a fair procedure means you’ll have proof of the reasons for dismissal. In the event of an unfair dismissal claim, this burden of proof rests on you.

If you fail to follow a fair procedure, you should at least make the employee aware of the dismissal appeal process. In the appeal, the employee has rights as stated in the Code of Practice for Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

What does a fair procedure consist of?

There are five key steps to a fair dismissal procedure. Ensuring you follow them will help you to avoid an automatically unfair dismissal or discrimination claim.

  1. The investigation

There could be many reasons for an employee’s dismissal. It could be dismissal due to misconduct or breaches of contract. Whatever the reason, conduct a thorough investigation into the behaviour or any claims made by colleagues to you.

You must collect and review the necessary evidence before you can dismiss an employee. You can, however, suspend the employee, but they must continue to be paid until they’re officially dismissed.

  1. The letter detailing the reasons for dismissal

Once you have your evidence reviewed, draft an initial letter to the employee. Include the reasons for their dismissal, e.g., whether it’s for misconduct, financial reasons, etc.

  1. The meeting 

Meet with the employee to talk about the dismissal. This meeting has to be held before the dismissal is decided. Also, afford the employee time to prepare for the meeting.

  1. The decision

When you’re ready to do so, inform the employee of your decision. You can do this via a dismissal letter or email. Add that they can appeal the decision and how to do so.

  1. The appeal

If the employee decides to appeal the decision, get someone who didn’t originally dismiss the employee to decide it. Invite the employee to a meeting to arrive at a final decision. Make the employee aware of their right to be accompanied to this meeting.

Our HR consultants can help with short service dismissal

Our HR consultants can help you manage short service dismissal processes so you can avoid Workplace Relations Commission cases. Call today on 01 886 0350.

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Nora Cashe

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Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

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David Begg

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