The sacking of Haringey's head of children's services highlights the perils of the rush job.
The recent sacking of Sharon Shoesmith, ex-head of Haringey Council Children's Service, without notice, and her reported claim for £173,000 in compensation, highlights the importance of taking appropriate steps before undertaking similar action.
In most cases, the three-step standard dismissal procedure of invitation, meeting and appeal meeting applies - unless matters are so serious as to justify an on-the-spot dismissal.
With respect to on-the-spot dismissals, compliance with the two-step modified procedure - a dismissal letter, followed by an appeal meeting - is a defence against a claim of automatic unfair dismissal.
Automatic way out
Until April 2009, a failure to carry out the appropriate statutory dismissal process could expose the employer to a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and an uplift on any compensation award of between 10% and 50%.
It is unclear which process Haringey Council followed in the Shoesmith case. We know she was suspended on 1 December 2008, following secretary of state for children Ed Balls' directive to replace her, but she was not dismissed until 8 December 2008 by a panel of councillors. Both the eight-day period of suspension and the fact that a panel had been convened, suggest the standard dismissal procedure was applied.
Shoesmith appealed the decision, reportedly on the basis that the council failed to follow the appropriate disciplinary process. However, that appeal was rejected by the council, and it is unlikely that we shall find out the detail unless she brings an employment tribunal claim.
One ground for appeal could have been that, given the public, media and political pressure on the council to come to a decision about Shoesmith's future, the dismissal meeting was rushed and failed to give her adequate time to prepare or respond.
But even if the dismissal was procedurally unfair, Shoesmith's compensation may be drastically reduced if, should the case go to tribunal, it determines that, had the meeting been fairly undertaken, there would have been no change to the out