Dismissal – How to Get It Right

There’s no easy way to dismiss an accountant in practice.

It’s often the hardest part of leadership, but when it needs to be done, it needs to be done legally and fairly.

At Public Practice Recruitment Ltd we pride ourselves on supporting our clients with all aspects of accountancy recruitment and often we’re tasked with back filling roles that have come about due to a dismissal. Thankfully we’re always up for that task and you can rest assured that we’ll find you a brilliant replacement.

But let’s rewind a few steps and place ourselves in the shoes of a leader in accountancy who is battling with a poor performing employee or some other issue where dismissal seems like the best or only option for the firm.

Here’s what that leader needs to be taking into consideration before taking steps towards dismissal.

In the world of employment law dismissal falls into four categories:

  • Fair dismissal
  • Unfair dismissal
  • Constructive dismissal
  • Wrongful dismissal

And the only one you want to find yourself on the other side of the table from, is fair dismissal.

At a very high level, the reasons an employment tribunal might deem a dismissal to be fair would fall under the following headers:

  • Issues relating to the employee’s capability or conduct
  • Redundancy
  • A situation that prevents them from legally being able to undertake the tasks in their job description
  • The agreed terms and period of an employment contract come to an end (for instance in the case of a maternity cover post)

If the situation with the employee you’re considering dismissing falls into any of the headers above, the next issue to consider is whether dismissal right now is reasonable. And in this decision ask yourself the question…..

Does the problem justify immediate dismissal? This would usually only occur if the employee had committed gross misconduct, i.e theft, fraud, working whilst under the influence and other reasons as would ideally be outlined in your HR policy or staff handbook.

If the problem doesn’t justify immediate dismissal then as an employer you must stop and consider what reasonable actions could and should be taken to offer the employee the opportunity to change their situation and most importantly to follow the procedures outlined in your firm’s HR policies and/or staff handbook.

Regardless of how poorly an employee might be performing, failure to comply with your own procedures as outlined in your employee documentation, will likely result in a claim of unfair dismissal! 

Because of these employment rules, our top tips to accountancy leaders and managers are:

  • Ensure that your contracts of employment include a probationary period during which time you can be more decisive around dismissal on grounds of performance. Make sure it’s a reasonable period of time.
  • Always address issues of poor performance promptly and ensure that meetings and conversations are well documented and letters are sent to the employee in line with your HR policies and copies are kept on file.
  • Always consult the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures when writing or reviewing policies and when managing staff.
  • Be sure to follow the step by step procedure for making staff redundant as outlined by ACAS and your own HR policies and procedures.
  • Ensure temporary contracts have clear clauses in them that outline the process for the contract coming to an end.

‘There’s no denying that the process of dismissing someone is unpleasant for all parties involved. But our experience helps us to clearly conclude that tackling issues of poor performance or capability head on, right from the outset, is always the best way forward for both employees and employers. For firms who are left with empty desks as a result of dismissals, interim accountants are often the very best way to ensure minimal disruption to client services. Our extensive database of interim accountants means we’re best placed to help you source the talent you need, when you most need it.’

To find out more about the process and benefits of employing interim staff, take a look at this article on why an Interim Accountant could be the perfect solution for your firm. 

And for help managing the after effects of dismissals be sure to reach out to us today for confidential advice and recruitment support.


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