Can I sack an employee who has already resigned?

Hi Aunty B,


For the first few months, she was doing really well – there were the odd few mistakes, but I made sure that I went through these with her so she would learn from them as part of her training.


A couple of months ago she started being really slack with her work, making lots of mistakes and then denying them, coming in and leaving whatever time she felt like, taking a longer lunch than she is supposed to and not making up the time, making and receiving lots of personal phone calls, taking lots of sick days and basically spending the time we were paying her by using MySpace all day (I saw it on her computer screen when I walked by several times).


My husband and I went interstate for a business trip for a week, leaving our junior in charge, and during that week some of our clients contacted us via email and phone saying they had left messages on our answer machine to make appointments and no one had got back to them.


On questioning our junior, she said there were never any messages from those people. I gave her a performance review, and made it really positive with suggestions for ways to improve and expand on her skills. She was fantastic again for two days, then went very quickly downhill.


She has been on annual leave over Christmas, and over the break we decided we would put measures in place to ensure that she was performing, including getting her to fill in a timesheet each day and having it signed off by a senior staff member, and having her daily tasks signed off by a senior staff member.


The day I asked her to do this, she handed in her resignation, giving four weeks notice (as stipulated in her contract). She still has three and a half weeks left until she leaves. I have staff available to take over her role (other staff were doing most of her role anyway!!).


Can I, and should I, get rid of her before the notice period is up? Or should our whole office just grin and bear it for the next few weeks.



Hi KB,

First congratulations for starting your own business. And second, congratulations for making mistakes, because this is one of the main ways you’ll learn as an entrepreneur.

Because you have made two big ones.


First you didn’t swoop down on junior as soon as she began to play up. As soon as she was slack with work, as soon as she was caught playing MySpace, as soon as she came in late – you pull her into a room and in a very stern voice, tell her what your culture is and tell her the next bad behaviour gets a warning.


That would have done it. A big shock dished up early in someone’s career when they are starting to play up that badly and that quickly, can be the eye opener that switches then back to be great performers.


The second mistake was leaving her alone in the office, effectively handing her your trust, when she was already performing badly and should have lost it.


What you must do now is pay her out in lieu of the remaining notice period and let her go today. Your other terrific employees should not be made to grin and bear anyone like this.


Our lawyer, Uncle P, (Peter Vitale) says this is the legal and right thing to do in this situation. So, problem solved. You have tried to train her, done your best, and it’s time for her to get on another bus.


Good luck!


Your Aunty B.

I started up a small business just over a year ago. My husband and I own and run the business together. We brought on a junior seven months after we opened shop.


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