An employer can dismiss an employee for a variety of reasons – such as misconduct, poor performance, or redundancy – but must follow a fair and proper process.

Employee and employer responsibilities

                                                    What you should know
If you’re an employee If you’re an employer

You cannot be dismissed without good reason.

When dismissing an employee, you must follow a fair and proper process.             

You must be given the notice stated in your employment agreement, unless you are being dismissed for serious misconduct – in which case, you may be asked to leave right away.                

You must also have good reason for the dismissal.              

If you believe you have been dismissed unfairly, you can raise a personal grievance.

You must give notice according to the provisions of the employment agreement.

You can, however, dismiss an employee for proven serious misconduct without giving notice or making payment for the notice period. You must, as always, have a good reason, and follow a fair and proper process. 


If an employer wants to dismiss an employee (end their employment), they must:

  • act in
  • have a good reason
  • follow a fair and reasonable process, and
  • have an open mind when dealing with problems so that outcomes are not pre-determined.

If the employer does not take these steps, the employee may be able to raise a personal grievance claim against them.

Reasons for dismissing an employee

The following are reasons why an employer may want to dismiss an employee:

  • serious misconduct
  • repeated misconduct
  • performance issues
  • during a trial period
  • redundancy
  • health issues.

Illness and injury



Trials and probationary periods

Dismissal outside of a trial period

If an employee is dismissed and they are not within a valid trial period, they have the right to ask their employer to give the reasons for dismissal in a written statement within 60 days of finding out.

The employer needs to respond in writing within 14 days of the request being made.

Dismissal during a trial period

If an employee is dismissed during a valid trial period:

  • the employer needs to explain why, if asked, but
  • they can give their reasons verbally (not in writing).

Trial and probationary periods

Fair process when dismissing an employee

There are fair process principles an employer must follow if they want to dismiss an employee.

Fair process

If dismissal is being contemplated, there are steps an employer should follow for:

  • performance issues
  • misconduct.

Performance issues

Notice period

Unless an employee is being dismissed for serious misconduct, their employer must give them the notice stated in their .

Summary dismissal

Sometimes, in situations of serious misconduct, an employer may be able to dismiss an employee without:

  • giving them any notice, or
  • any payment instead of notice.

In this instance, the employee has to leave work right away and is not paid for any notice period or part of notice period. The employee is still entitled to any statutory payment they are owed in their final pay, for example, . To dismiss an employee in this way, the employer must still have a good reason and follow a fair process.

Annual holiday pay

Constructive dismissal

If an employee feels they had no choice but to resign, owing to the actions or inaction of their employer, it may be considered ‘constructive dismissal’ – and grounds for a personal grievance claim.

Constructive dismissal

Other links you might find useful:

Employment Relations Authority(external link)

Business.govt.nz(external link)

Citizens Advice Bureau (external link)

Sample letters for dismissing an employee

These are sample letters that employers may find useful should they decide to dismiss an employee. These letters deal with different circumstances:

  1. Sample letter - termination of employment (dismissal on notice) (DOCX, 31 KB) [DOCX, 31 KB]
  2. Sample letter - termination of employment (dismissal without notice) (DOCX, 24 KB) [DOCX, 24 KB]
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