Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, PMP® -> Succession & Retirement Planning, Part-time CFO, Value Growth Institute, Charlotte, North Carolina. U.S.A -

If Employers Have Followed Employment Rules Dismissing an Employee By Text is Legal

by Alison Withers | July 15, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Alison Withers

At any time losing one's job can be a traumatic experience but being dismissed by a mobile phone text message or by email seems somehow to be much more brutal.

Despite the fact that communication via electronic media is so much a part of most people's lives this is perhaps one situation in which this type of communication can seem particularly cold and inhuman.

It is often asked whether this form of dismissal is actually legal.

Actually it is.  But this does not mean that the employer can also ignore all the steps that are required under employment protection law even if they choose this method of making the formal announcement.

Failure to follow the correct steps can result in an employer being challenged at a tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal.

There are some grounds where an employer can dismiss someone instantly, such as theft of company property or violence or assaults against colleagues, which are known collectively as gross misconduct.

There are other grounds where dismissal may be fair, perhaps because of an employee's behaviour or failure to comply with their employment contract, or because their work is no longer needed in the company and their post is therefore redundant. If an employee can no longer carry out the tasks for which they were hired, such as a driver who has lost their driver's licence, this would also be considered fair grounds for dismissal.

Whatever the reason for the dismissal, however, employers would be wise to carry out the dismissal process fairly so that they are not vulnerable to accusations or tribunal appeals for unfair dismissal, where an employee is directly employed, rather than on a fixed term contract.

If performance or behaviour are given as grounds for dismissal, most employers have a disciplinary and grievance procedure and an agreed period for giving employees notice of termination.

No matter the method being used to inform the employee of their dismissal these procedures need to be seen to have been carried out fairly and correctly. The employee must be given an opportunity to put their own case at a disciplinary hearing where their performance or behaviour are being questioned.

In one case of dismissal by text in the UK an employee won an award of £14,000 for unfair dismissal when their employer failed to comply with employment law.  The person concerned had overslept and not reported for work on time.

While the details of this particular case have not been made public, it would be reasonable for an employer to finally lose patience with a repeat offender who had been warned and also gone through a disciplinary process.  It might not be seen as reasonable by a tribunal for a first offence especially if the employee had been given no chance to explain and apologise.

About Alison Withers

Dismissing an employee by text message may be efficient and less costly, albeit brutal, but it is legal provided the employer has followed the rules on dismissal. By Ali Withers.


About Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; Chia-Li “like JOLLY,” Succession Strategist of Value Growth Institute, dedicated to helping private business owners increase their company equity value. She is the award-winning author of the books Show Me The Money and Work toward Reward and a faculty of the American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was named a Top Small Business Resource by the New York Times You’re the Boss blog. Contact her at or (704) 268-9378 .

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