There may be times when a business can find themselves in a situation where one of their clients has requested the removal of one of their employees from the client’s premises due to that employee’s performance or conduct concerns. These third party pressure situations mainly occur in such industries as security, cleaning and construction. So what do you do if your client has called up to request the removal of your employee off their site or premises?
The first thing to check is whether the person making the request has the authority to request the removal of your employee from site. It could be a difficult balancing act between wanting to keep a positive relationship with your client and showing a duty of care towards your employee but it is imperative that their authority is checked. As an example, if you receive a request from an administrator employed by your client asking for your employee to be removed from their site, does the administrator have the authority and seniority to make such a request? Usually, the requests should only come from senior management and/ or Directors/ CEOs.
The second step is to ascertain the reason for the request; is it conduct or capability? Is it a breakdown in relationships? It is important to find out the reason behind the request.
If the situation cannot be resolved swiftly, it may be necessary to place the employee on a period of paid leave or to arrange for the employee to be moved to another site and replaced with a different employee to maintain the service provision. If the employee has allegedly committed an act of gross misconduct then suspension with pay may be the only option to ensure any subsequent summary dismissal is not undermined. If the allegation of gross misconduct is upheld, the dismissal will be for gross misconduct and not third party pressure.
It is important to mention at this stage that, although there may be a predominant desire to keep your client happy, you are expected to act as your employee’s “champion” in third-party pressure situations which would mean that you would have to ask some tough questions of your client.
Once you have satisfied yourself that the person requesting the removal has the authority to do so and have gained an understanding of the reason for the request, you should ask your client to provide the request in writing setting out the reasons in detail and asking the client to reconsider their request.
When the written request is received you should look to investigate with the employee in question. It would be advisable to invite the employee in writing to the investigation meeting setting out the reasons for the meeting thus ensuring the correct paper trail is maintained.
After the meeting has been held ask your client to reconsider their request and giving them a summary of employee views and responses following the investigation and confirming what action, if any, will be taken against the employee. This, again, should be well documented.
Grounds for Dismissal?
Dependent on the reason for the request to remove, it may be necessary to conduct a formal disciplinary hearing with the employee. This should be done in line with your internal procedures. If your client continues to refuse to reconsider the request you should notify the employee of the potential disciplinary outcome and of the fact that the client is refusing to reconsider the request.
A formal meeting should be held with the employee to explore any possible avenue of maintaining the individual’s employment. This meeting may result in termination of employment with notice for ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’.
It is of paramount importance that all avenues of preserving employment are explored including swapping employees around sites (you may need to consult with the other employee/s depending on their particular contractual terms) and looking at any open vacancies. If it is not possible to move the employee, the reasons behind the failure need to be fully documented and justified, effectively, you would need to document each consideration and why it would not be feasible.
If, at the formal meeting with the employee, no suitable alternative employment is found and your client is still not willing to reconsider their request, the employee would be dismissed contractually i.e. with notice. The fact of dismissal and the reasons for the dismissal should be confirmed to the employee in writing giving a right to appeal the outcome.
The entire process should be well documented and evidenced to provide the best chance of any subsequent claim by the employee being successfully defended. Failure to follow a fair and thorough process opens the employer up to claims of unfair dismissal as well as a myriad of other claims such as discrimination.
Please seek advice from our advice line if you have an Employment Law or HR issue that you need support and guidance with.