The first time I met Séamus he was a worried man. Séamus is a small employer, with just a handful of employees.
But he had to let one of them go recently because he just wasn’t working out. His attitude was disastrous and Séamus could not see how their relationship could be a happy one.
In fact, he could only see it ending badly.
And that’s exactly what happened on a wet Monday morning a few weeks before Séamus came to see me.
Are you an employer?
Are you concerned about the possibility of facing an costly claim for unfair dismissal?
Recently, I wrote an article, “My Single Best Tip for Employees”.
In this piece, I want to give you, as an employer, my best tip to protect yourself in relation to unfair dismissal claims, and how to ensure you are not stuck with an employee who is just not right for your organisation.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
My tip for employers is almost the exact opposite of my tip for employees.
Let me explain.
My tip for employees was to try to ensure that he got 12 months’ continuous employment under his belt, if at all possible. This was to ensure the employee could avail of the remedies provided by unfair dismissal legislation in Ireland, particularly the Unfair Dismissals act, 1977.
My tip for you as employer is to ensure this does not happen, unless you are absolutely satisfied that you are happy with the employee and they are right for your business.
The best way to do this is by a robust, comprehensive probation period clause in the contract of employment.
This clause should make a number of provisions, and I would recommend the following:
- The probation period would be for an initial 6 months, but you would have the right to extend it to 11 months, if needed. This gives you a full 11 months to ascertain whether the employee is right for you or not.
- The full rigours of the disciplinary procedure will not apply during the probation period; I would still recommend fair procedures and natural justice if you are going to terminate, but you would provide that the full disciplinary procedure need not be afforded during probation.
- The notice period during the probation period would be one week; if you do not spell this out you run the risk that whatever notice period stipulated in the contract will apply-this could be one month or three months and it would be strongly arguable, in the absence of the one week provision, that the employee is entitled to one or three months’ notice. Even if you did not require the employee to work the notice period, you would still be on the hook for payment of wages in lieu of notice.
It is widely accepted that an employee can be dismissed during the probation period. In fact, the purpose of the probation period is to allow the employer see if the employee is “the right fit” for the organisation.
It is critical, therefore, that you have as much time as possible to make that decision, but thtat you make it before the employee has 12 months’ continuous service and the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977.
Bonus Tip #1 for Employers
If you are going to terminate an unsuitable employee don’t leave it too late-remember that the termination date is the date when notice expires, not when it is given.
If, for example, you have an employee working for 50 weeks and you give her a months’ notice of termination she will have the necessary period of continuous employment to bring an unfair dismissal claim.
Bonus Tip #2 for Employers
I would recommend that you always go through some form of fair procedure before terminating, even if the employee is on probation.
If the employee has over 12 months’ service you need to afford the full rigours of your disciplinary procedure before terminating the employment.