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What is Unfair Dismissal?


An unfair dismissal occurs where an employer terminates an employee’s contract for a reason or in a way that is not fair or reasonable. An employee who has been unfairly dismissed can make an unfair dismissal claim for compensation.


When looking at claiming unfair dismissal compensation, an Employment Tribunal will consider two things. Firstly is the employer's reason for the dismissal ‘fair’, and secondly did the employer use a fair procedure.


What is a ‘fair’ reason for a dismissal?
Employment law gives employers 5 basic reasons that are considered fair:

  1. Redundancy: the need to make redundancies arises when a business closes down, no longer has a demand for work at a particular location, or if the employer decides to cut down the workforce responsible for a particular task. If workers employed in this way cannot be deployed elsewhere then they are often made redundant. Employers must, however, follow the correct procedure in making redundancies; which involves discussing the selection process with the employees and usually making a redundancy payment.
  2. Conduct: if an employee commits theft, fraud or breaches the terms of their employment contract, the employer can dismiss them on the grounds of conduct.
  3. Capability: dismissal on the ground of capability tends to apply to incompetent employees who simply cannot do their job properly perhaps due to a lack of experience or qualifications. Dismissal can also be made on this ground if the employee spends long periods of time absent from work (note this does not avoid disability discrimination law).
  4. Statutory Restriction: this occurs when continuing to employ someone would result in the employer breaking the law. For example an employer would be entitled to fairly sack a taxi driver who was disqualified from driving or a foreign worker whose visa has expired. This ground also applies to any employees who commit illegal activities at work.
  5. Other substantial reason: this catch-all provision covers numerous different reasons for dismissal. The reason, however, must be ‘substantial’ and the employer must be left with no option other than dismissal.


What is a ‘fair’ procedure for a dismissal?
Even if an employer has a fair reason for dismissing an employee, that dismissal is unfair if they don’t follow the correct procedure.


A fair procedure occurs where an employer acts reasonably and follows a set disciplinary process. This involves providing the employee with warnings, holding disciplinary hearings and informing employees of their rights to have independent representation. More information on this procedure can be found in the ACAS Code of Practice. Many employers lose an unfair dismissal claim by simply having inadequate disciplinary procedures – so, for example, although redundancy is one of the grounds for a fair dismissal, using the wrong procedure creates an unfair redundancy.


Are there any requirements to bring an Unfair Dismissal Claim?
To bring an unfair dismissal claim you must have been employed for at least one year. However, there is no requirement for this length of service if your employer has dismissed you for an automatically unfair reason. An automatically unfair reason includes dismissals based on the grounds of race, sex or disability (amongst others) discrimination, membership of a trade union, maternity/paternity or taking leave for dependents.


However some employees are unable to bring unfair dismissal claims due to the nature of their job, including:

  • Police officers
  • Members of the armed forces
  • Registered dock workers
  • Employees above the UK retirement age (65)
  • Independent contractors or freelance workers

However if you do fall into one of these categories and are thinking of claiming unfair dismissal, make sure you get specialist legal advice concerning your rights.


UK Unfair Dismissal Claim? Contact us today
Don't forget that there is a very strict three months time limit for making a claim. So if you think you may have been unfairly dismissed, contact our solicitors straight away.

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Unfair Dismissal Claim – UK solicitors specialising in Claiming Unfair Dismissal Compensation
Bonallack & Bishop Solicitors (76483) authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority


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