The BVNA Industrial Relations Helpline regularly receives calls from veterinary nurses advising that they have been told that they have been dismissed and that they either do not know the reason for the dismissal, or that they do not believe that the correct procedure has been followed.

What is dismissal?

Dismissal of an employee occurs when: 

•  the employer terminates the contract, either with or without giving notice 

•  a fixed-term contract ends and is not renewed

•  the employee leaves, with or without giving notice, in circumstances in which they are entitled to do so because of the employers conduct.

The most common reasons for dismissal are misconduct, inability to do the job and redundancy.

A dismissal will normally be ‘fair’ provided that the employer has one of the five specified reasons for the dismissal and has acted ‘reasonably’ in carrying it out:

•  capability or qualifications 

•  conduct

•  if continuing to employ would break the law

•  some other substantial reason 

•  redundancy.

When somebody is dismissed, they often say they will claim 'unfair' or 'wrongful' dismissal. The terms are often used interchangeably, but in fact they are entirely different and arise from very different concepts.

Wrongful dismissal

This occurs when the employer terminates the contract of employment and in doing so breaches the contract – i.e. terminating the contract without giving a contractual notice period.

Unfair dismissal

All employees have the right to be treated fairly. The employer must act fairly and reasonably in making the decision to dismiss an employee – i.e. not following their company disciplinary procedure.

Constructive dismissal

This occurs when the employee resigns as a result of the employer’s actions which amount to a fundamental breach of the employee’s contract of employment.

The most common breach is that of ‘mutual trust and confidence’ between the employee and the employer.

This is a complex and often misunderstood area of employment law.


Before any decisions are taken to dismiss an employee, the employer must carry out a full investigation and carry out a formal disciplinary hearing in line with their company procedure and following ACAS guidelines – ensuring that the employee is invited in writing to attend meetings advising that they have the right to representation and the reason for the meeting.

The outcome of the meeting must be confirmed in writing and advising of the right to appeal.

Employees are entitled to know the reason they face an investigation or a disciplinary meeting, the right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing and the right of appeal. 

Members of the BVNA can contact the IRS Helpline for free advice and support. Call 01822 870270 or e-mail


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA's Industrial Relations Service since it began in 2002.

• VOL 27 • October 2012 • Veterinary Nursing Journal