Is it legal to fire someone over the phone or email?

Dismissing a staff member who is consistently underperforming or someone who’s rarely at work is a stressful and difficult thing to face. Whether you’re thinking of sacking someone for the first time or the hundredth time, there’s no easy way of doing it. Since you’re asking: “is it legal to fire someone over the phone or email?” you’re obviously apprehensive about having to do this so we’ve checked out the employment rules and presented them in an easy to understand way.
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Unfair dismissal

If you’re thinking about dismissing someone, you will have considered the fact that they could sue you for unfair dismissal. The law says that when you dismiss someone you have to do it fairly. This basically means that you have to have a reason for the dismissal and you also need to act in a certain manner during the dismissal process.

Dismissal process

The dismissal process is up to you. In a lot of cases, the employee won’t know that this is about to occur so you have to act fairly. You’ve already worked out your reason for the sacking and you’ve probably run it passed a colleague to make sure that it’s fair and reasonable. You also need to act reasonably during the dismissal process. The trouble is that there’s no legal definition of “reasonable” but the sorts of questions asked at a employment tribunal are worth considering before you approach the employee.

Employment tribunal

If your employee takes you to an employment tribunal, you’ll be asked the following so make sure that you’re squeaky clean on each of these things before you fire the errant member of staff.

  • Can you demonstrate that you genuinely believed that the reason was fair?
  • Did you carried out proper investigations where appropriate?
  • Did you follow the relevant procedures?
  • Did you tell the employee why they were being considered for dismissal and listened to their views?
  • Did you allow the employee to be accompanied at disciplinary/dismissal hearings?
  • Did you give the employee the chance to appeal?

Final thoughts

There are no laws against firing a member of staff by phone or Email in the UK but an employment tribunal might frown on it. If you want to get the employee out of your life for good, bite the bullet and do it face to face.

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