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What is summary dismissal?

Many employers….and employees, are confused about summary dismissal. Many raise questions and employers want to know what it is and how it exactly works.

Here is what employers need to know

A summary dismissal is a dismissal based on the capacity or the conduct of the employee.

When an employee is dismissed ‘summarily’, he is dismissed without notice. The dismissal takes place immediately following a disciplinary enquiry. It does not require advance notice to the employee and salary/wages are only paid to the time of dismissal.

What makes this dismissal different from other dismissals is that the employee is not entitled to notice as agreed in his/her contract of employment or, as set out in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA). In addition, the employee is not entitled to payment in lieu of notice.

By dismissing the employee summarily, the employer effectively declare that the employee is no longer bound to the contract of employment from that moment onwards. This stops the employee from continuing to work in terms of his/her contract of employment from the moment of termination.

When does summary dismissal occur?

Summary dismissal usually happens when an employee commits a serious act of misconduct. The employer has a legal right to summarily dismiss an employee without notice for serious misconduct or other conduct which justifies such dismissal. This includes wilful damage to property, physical assault, gross dishonesty, fraud, sexual harassment, etc.

For example, when an employee is summarily dismissed for theft and fraud following a disciplinary enquiry and the employment is terminated immediately, the employee does not work his/her notice period or receive payment in lieu of notice.