Q&A: Providing a written statement of reasons for dismissal

Explaining in a written statement why an employee has been dismissed raises numerous issues
Explaining in a written statement why an employee has been dismissed raises numerous issues

Some employees have an automatic right to a written statement of reasons for dismissal, others are entitled only if they put in a request and some have no right at all. We look at when employers need to provide a departing employee with a written statement of reasons for the dismissal.

Q: Which employees are automatically entitled to a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

If an employer dismisses an employee who is pregnant, on maternity leave or on adoption leave, the employer must provide him or her with a written statement of reasons for dismissal. The employee is not required to put in a request for the written reasons.

For example, if an employee is made redundant while on maternity leave, she is automatically entitled to a written statement of the reasons for her dismissal.

Task: Provide a written statement of reasons for dismissal for an employee dismissed while pregnant or on maternity leave

Q: Is there a set format for a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

No, there is no set format. The relevant legislation says only that employees have a right to a written statement giving particulars of the reasons for the employee’s dismissal.

Model letter providing a statement of the reasons for an employee’s dismissal

Model letter providing a statement of the reasons for an employee’s dismissal where the employee is pregnant, or on maternity or adoption leave

Q: Are employees who are dismissed while on shared parental leave entitled to a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

No, unlike employees on maternity leave or adoption leave, employees who are dismissed while on shared parental leave are not automatically entitled to written reasons for dismissal. Provided that the employee has the required length of service, however, the employer would have to provide an employee on shared parental leave with a written statement of reasons for dismissal on request.

Read about the rights of employees on shared parental leave, including rights relating to redundancy during shared parental leave and detriment and dismissal.

Q: Can other employees request a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

Yes, while it is only employees who are dismissed when pregnant or on maternity or adoption leave who must automatically be provided with a statement of reasons, other employees can request one. As long as the employee has at least two years’ service, the employer must provide him or her with a written statement of reasons for dismissal within 14 days of request.

If an employer delays giving an employee a written statement of reasons for dismissal, can this lead to a tribunal claim?

Q: Why is the written statement of reasons for dismissal important?

If an employee brings a claim for unfair dismissal, the employer must show that it had a potentially fair reason for dismissing him or her, for example conduct, capability or redundancy. A written statement of reasons for dismissal can be used as evidence in an unfair dismissal claim and so it is important that the employer clearly identifies a fair reason and has evidence to support this.

Providing written reasons for dismissal can also reduce the potential for a discrimination claim, for example by making clear that there was a fair reason for the dismissal of an employee on maternity leave, unrelated to her pregnancy or maternity leave absence.

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Q: What are the consequences of failing to provide a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

An eligible employee can bring a tribunal claim if the employer unreasonably fails to provide a statement or provides a statement that is untrue or inadequate. The tribunal can award compensation and can make a ruling on what the reasons for dismissal were.

Read more about the remedy for failure to provide a written statement of reasons for dismissal.

Q: In practice, shouldn’t an employer always provide an employee with the reasons why he or she has been dismissed?

Yes. Even if an employee has less than two years’ service and therefore cannot bring an ordinary unfair dismissal claim, as a matter of good practice and to reduce the risk of discrimination claims, employers should not dismiss employees without giving reasons and should not wait for the employee to put in a request before putting those reasons in writing.

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