Do employers have the right to dismiss employees without notice?

An employer is entitled to dismiss without notice, known as summary dismissal, if an employee has behaved in a way that represents a serious breach of his or her contract. This will usually mean that he or she has committed an act of serious misconduct. Summary dismissal will be justified where the employee's actions show such a serious breach of the contract that further continuance of the relationship is impossible.

Employers should give a clear indication of what kind of behaviour will be taken to be such a serious breach of contract that it will result in summary dismissal. Summary dismissal does not, however, mean instant dismissal. An employer should carry out a thorough investigation of the circumstances before taking the decision to dismiss. It may suspend the employee in question on full pay while it investigates. However, the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures cautions that any period of paid suspension should be as brief as possible and be kept under review. The employer should ask if there were any mitigating circumstances; what the employee has to say for him- or herself; and whether or not the employee's behaviour was uncharacteristic, given his or her service and record.