Dismissing family members!

Few challenges can be more disturbing emotionally than sacking a member of one’s own family. Furthermore, no ex-employee is more likely to take you to a Tribunal than one of your family!

It perhaps goes without saying that a dismissal, or sacking, should not be the first port of call.

Below we look at “personality clashes” and potential reasons for dismissal.

But first, one alternative to dismissal may be to persuade an individual to gain experience elsewhere. Family businesses can suffer from being too internal and experience gained in an other business can be invaluable to the family and to the individual. A return to the family business may be an option when the family member has gained different experiences or if circumstances change.

But if dismissal is the preferred option then there are several important matters to be considered. The first requirement to satisfy is having a fair reason for the dismissal. It is also essential to follow a fair process and the procedure required varies according to the reason. The main “fair reasons” are examined under the headings below.

Personality clashes

Here is it is important to show that you have taken genuine steps to resolve the situation. Many personality clashes are resolvable. To show you are genuine it would be best to engage an outside party, that is someone outside to the family and the business. You might consider a business consultant, an HR Adviser, Mediator, even a Chartered Psychologist. In this context, good advisers will be short on advice and long on listening. From your viewpoint someone you trust is essential.

If it comes to it, a Tribunal will not be interested in who is right and who is wrong. Demonstrating that you have attempted to resolve the matter is likely to be the game changer.

Many of these situations are resolved by settlement agreements. Contact us to discuss.


If an individual has been employed for 2 years before you discover they are incapable of doing the job, then expect a Tribunal to be sceptical about this being a fair reason for dismissal. As a broad rule there has to be a clear change in the persons capability, such as ill health, if this is to be a justifiable reason. There is a clear procedure to follow that applies much the same whether the employee is a family member or not.


The redundancy has to be genuine if it is to stand up in court. Here too advice from an outside party can be crucial. One of our clients had an industry expert establish their correct competitive organisation structure and one of the family members was no longer needed. Although it was contested, the reason stood up in court. The client also, importantly, took our advice on the procedure to follow.

Settlement agreements may be an option here too, especially if there are elements in the decision for which it is hard to provide hard evidence.


It matters little whether the misconduct is by a family member or not. Simply keep in mind that a challenge, in the form of a Tribunal claim, is much more likely in family circumstances. Following a correct process is crucial.

In summary

So, yes, you can “sack” family members, just be careful to be fair and to follow the appropriate procedures.

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