How Laudrup Swansea sacking is a lesson for business
Natalie Ward – specialist employment solicitor, Thrings LLP, discusses the pitfalls of email correspondence.
Correspondence by email, text message and social media is playing an ever-increasing role in both our private and working lives, making communication altogether more casual and immediate.
But despite its widespread use, it was interesting to observe the considerable amount of media attention that Swansea City Football Club received last month following its alleged decision to relieve manager Michael Laudrup of his duties by email.
With Laudrup having signalled his intention to take legal action, the situation serves as a timely reminder that the law is an old-fashioned beast which requires employers to deal with staff in a more formal manner – particularly where disciplinary sanctions or dismissal are the likely outcome.
An employer must not only have a fair reason for dismissing an employee with more than two years’ service (such as redundancy, capability or conduct), but also take care to ensure it follows correct procedure in so doing.
There has been a move over recent years to de-formalise disciplinary and dismissal procedures in an attempt to make them less prescriptive and more accessible to both employers and employees.
Accordingly, the acknowledged procedures have been downgraded from statutory requirements to “best practice”.
That said, one of the most fundamental requirements of these procedures is to hold a face-to-face meeting to enable the employee to have their say.
Failure by an employer to act fairly and reasonably could result in a claim for unfair dismissal on the basis of a flawed procedure alone.
Not only are such claims often time-consuming and stressful, they can also be potentially costly and damaging to a business’ reputation.
Employees can be awarded up to a year’s salary (currently capped at £74,200) in compensation for a finding of unfair dismissal.
The ‘hairdryer treatment’, beloved of some football managers, is often quoted, but it doesn’t play well in the average workplace.
Neither does relying on email alone to terminate contracts. So, at the very least, remember it’s good to talk.