A: The qualifying period for the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim changed on 6 April 2012.
Employees who began their employment on or after this date will generally need to accrue two years' service (not one year as previously) by the time their employment ends in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim.
Although your staff member may not be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim, she may be able to bring a discrimination claim given that no qualifying period of employment is required for such a claim.
In addition, if she has raised any health or safety issues, or issues about criminal or other wrongdoing, she would be able to bring a 'whistle blowing' claim.
You must pay her the sums she is due under her contract or she can bring a claim. In addition, dismissal for asserting a statutory right is automatically unfair, and no qualifying period of employment is necessary to bring a claim.
Having a meeting with the employee and explaining the reasons for terminating her contract is a wise precaution.
It would be sensible to retain any relevant contemporaneous documents showing her poor performance and keep them for at least six months, as she would have a three-month period to lodge a claim. Sometimes the period can be extended.
The dismissal letter should explain why she has been dismissed - that is, unfortunately, her performance did not reach the required standard.
It is automatically unfair to dismiss employees because they are pregnant or for a maternity related reason.
If the real reason for the dismissal is poor performance, then you will need to be able to show that this is genuine, and not connected with pregnancy or maternity.