British businesses are becoming more astute at weeding out under-performing employees, says Croner, part of global information services business Wolters Kluwer.

Croner, which takes over 400,000 calls each year to its business advice lines, has seen a 20% decline in redundancy-related calls in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year. By contrast the numbers of calls relating to dismissal have risen by 10%.

Carol Smith, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner, says: “Over the last few months we have seen a noticeable decrease in the numbers of employers asking for advice on issues about reducing staff numbers through redundancy. However we have been getting more calls on performance, conduct and dismissal.

“Throughout the early years of the recession employers seemed to be using redundancy as a cover for getting rid of under-performing employees. With businesses now operating at their leanest, they cannot hide behind redundancy, and they know it. They are taking the bull by the horns and using one of the other four fair reasons to dismiss people.”

As well as redundancy, fair reasons to dismiss an employee are conduct, capability (through performance or ill-health), illegality (i.e. the employee does not have the right to work in the UK) and some other substantial reason, such as the loss of a driving licence (if an employee drives for work purposes).

Each of the five reasons has a process that an employer should follow. Using the wrong reason and /or process to dismiss can result in an unfair dismissal claim.

Carol Smith says: “Our advice to employers is to always identify if there is a genuine redundancy situation in line with statutory definitions. If there is, ensure that a proper consultation process is followed. If there isn’t a genuine redundancy, don’t use this as a reason to dismiss. Instead identify the real reason they are considering dismissal and follow the correct procedures.”