What is “dismissal for some other substantial reason”?

February 6, 2017
What is “dismissal for some other substantial reason”?

Image by thodonal88 / Shutterstock, Inc
Maybe you’re an employee, and you’ve been dismissed. Perhaps you’re wondering what your letter means when it says “dismissal for some other substantial reason”. Or maybe you’re an employer, who is wondering if you have reasonable grounds for fairly dismissing a member of your team – but your reasons don’t quite fit the standard list of fair dismissal grounds.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out some of the reasons you might have for fairly dismissing an employee. According to the list set out by ACAS, most of the reasons seem pretty clean cut and easy to define:

  • The employee has behaved inappropriately at work.
  • The employee is not capable or qualified to perform their role.
  • The employer needs to reduce the size of their workforce.
  • There is a statutory duty or restriction that prevents the employment from continuing

But while the list might seem simple so far, there’s another item that is a lot more difficult to define: Dismissal for “some other substantial reason”.

What constitutes “some other substantial reason”?

To help us understand what might be included under “dismissal for some other substantial reason”, let’s look at some of the examples listed on XpertHR.

  • Non-renewal of a fixed term contract. If you employ a person on a temporary, fixed term contract – for example, to cover another employee’s maternity leave – then you are not obliged to renew this contract.
  • Dismissal and re-engagement to impose new terms. If you’ve tried to negotiate new terms with an employee, but they won’t accept them, then you might dismiss and then re-engage them, as a way of serving a new employment contract.
  • Severe personality clash. There might be two people who simply cannot reasonably work together in the same environment. While it is better to work towards resolving the issue, this isn’t always possible.
  • Safeguarding concerns. Sometimes, you might have substantial reason to be concerned for the safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults. And while an employee may not have necessarily engaged in any misconduct, if you have reasonable safeguarding concerns, this could also be considered grounds for potentially fair dismissal.

In the right context, all of these reasons could be considered substantial reasons for the fair dismissal of an employee. Of course, you should be careful and always seek professional advice before making a decision.

This is not a loophole for getting rid of somebody you don’t like

XpertHR is quick to remind us that when dismissing an employee for “some other substantial reason”, you must take care to ensure you follow a fair procedure. This means acting reasonably, and taking into account all of the employee’s circumstances.

In other words, dismissal for “some other substantial reason” is not simply a quick fix for getting rid of somebody in your organisation – there really must be a good, reasonable and substantial reason for doing so.

If you found this article useful, you might also be interested in reading “hiring and firing: things you might not know about HR law”.

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