If you’re a start-up owner or a first-time HR executive you unfortunately may be coming up to the point where you may have to fire your first employee. Something we all wish that wasn’t part of the job but sadly is, if someone isn’t working out for your company then they need to go for the good of the business. Any toxic employee can be damaging to a start-up, furthermore as a new business you don’t have the luxury of piles of cash to keep everyone if they aren’t pulling their weight. As you’re new to this situation it can be something you may be hesitant to do or nervous about, however, it is crucial that you carry this out with confidence so you avoid any risk of it backfiring, any legal ramifications or just generally making things worse.

Get Prepared

Unless someone is still within their initial probation period, you can’t let someone go with a good reason or without following a strict legal process. When the warning signs that they aren’t performing or meeting company values are raised, you need to give the person in question an opportunity to address and rectify their behaviour. It’s at this point you need to create an official paper trail so that you have legal proof of ongoing problems and steps you’ve taken to solve the situation. The only exception of this will be if a case of gross misconduct has taken place. This will involve more research if you’re new to this but it should always be properly defined in your employment contracts in the beginning as this will give you a legal stance from the start as well as a clear behavioural rule for your staff.

Stay Professional Always

Being responsible for a business is a personal thing and if the employee has damaged your reputation in a certain way, it can be an emotional time. With that being said, it is crucial that you set aside this emotion and remain professional throughout the meeting. Stay civil and remain polite throughout but keep firm in all of your points and for your decision. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the dispute and let your emotions get the better of you but this could end up making the situation a lot worse and leave you open to legal issues. The worst thing you can do is say something you regret that may lead the whole thing going to court and in the worst-case scenario, you needing to get the help of settlement agreement solicitors to make the case go away. Stay professional and call the meeting to a close if things get heated – it may be beneficial to have a third-party member or witness there to ensure everything goes by the book.


If you’re unsure about notice periods or disciplinary processes, it’s time to go back to those contracts and make sure you’re on the right side of your own rules. Hire an employment lawyer to help you comb through the fine print to determine if you need to give them a notice period, or if you can let them go without notice. If you decide to let them go without notice, you will still need to pay them for the notice period. However, if you offer to let them work the notice period and they choose not to, you don’t have to pay for this period.

Safeguard the Fallout

As mentioned above, as a small business one of the worse outcomes from this process is legal proceedings. This is why you need to handle the situation with the utmost care and attention, ensuring you are rational about your reasons for dismissal – that way it can’t be argued. You can often lessen the blow by assuring the employee that they can still have a reference for future employment. As a whole though, failing to manage the firing process correctly can lead to disgruntled employees looking for weaknesses in your contract. This is why you need to have an air tight employment contract in the first place and you need to have all of the information before you make the decision to let them go. If you’ve missed something, it may throw your decision into turmoil, knocking your confidence and putting you on the back foot so do your research and collate the evidence. It may be help to seek the advice of HR professionals or services for the first case to guarantee that you are well within your rights for dismissal and to safeguard any potential issues. Then once you know, you’ll have the confidence to let future people go in the future if needed.