Summarily dismissed

Published by: Sebastian van den Brink posted on 20 May 2022 reading time

A summary dismissal is the toughest means of ending an employment contract. In the past year, a well-known Swedish furniture shop has had to deal with this form of dismissal several times. Not every meatball is as hot as it is served, as the following two published verdicts show.

In both judgments, employees were summarily dismissed for failing to act in accordance with the applicable rules. Case law shows that even seemingly minor breaches of the rules within a company can be grounds for immediate dismissal. In that case, the company must have a sufficient interest in enforcing the rules, must have brought those rules to the attention of the public, and must enforce the rules consistently.

Unjustified dismissal

In a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal of The Hague, the following case occurred: Employees could collect meal vouchers worth €2.50 from the staff reception. Each employee was entitled to one meal voucher if they worked on a Sunday. On 3 November, the employee collected a meal voucher at 12:00 and at 16:00. On 4 November, the HR manager and the Safety & Security specialist confronted the employee, who stated that the voucher had been picked up for a colleague and that the voucher had eventually been left unused in his locker. This explanation was insufficient for the Swedish company, after which the instant dismissal followed.

However, the court ruled that the instant dismissal was unjustified. The reasons given by the employer for the dismissal were insufficient as it was not clear to the employee that he could be dismissed if he did not strictly observe the rules for collecting meal vouchers. In addition, the employer accused the employee of lying about the meal vouchers in the conversation on 4 November, while according to the court this was an understandable confusion in connection with the employee's poor Dutch. Finally, the court assumed that the employee had no intention of appropriating the value of the voucher, as it had been left unused in his locker.

Justified immediate dismissal

Another case involving staff meals was heard by the Limburg District Court in 2021. The employee in question clocked in too early on several occasions, started his shifts too late and consumed a meal in the staff restaurant while he was not entitled to do so under the house rules. These violations occurred over a period of about six months and were always followed up immediately with official warnings. After the last incident, the employee was summarily dismissed.

The subdistrict court considered that the employee was sufficiently aware of the applicable rules and that he had been warned twice about the consequences of not complying with these rules. It is also assumed that there is sufficient interest for the employer in strictly enforcing these rules. The dismissal is upheld and the employee must pay the fixed compensation.


If employers have an interest in the strict enforcement of house rules or rules of conduct, these rules must also be crystal clear. If there is any doubt about the interpretation, a warning to the employee will make it clear that immediate dismissal may follow if it happens again.

For all your questions regarding instant dismissal, please contact our labour law specialists.