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What are the grounds for an unfair dismissal?

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If you have been dismissed by your employer, it can be a big shock and it can feel unfair. If your employer has not followed correct procedures or the reason for your dismissal is deemed to be unreasonable, then you may have a claim for unfair dismissal. It is vital that you seek independent advice from an organisation such as Acas or a solicitor who can work out if you have a claim and what to do next. 

Who can make a claim for unfair dismissal?

You can usually bring a claim for unfair dismissal if you are classed as an ‘employee’ and have been working for your employer for a minimum period of:

  • Two years if you started your job on or after 6 April 2012
  • One year if you started your job before 6 April 2012

What to do if you think you have been unfairly dismissed

First, it is important to establish what your ‘employment status’ is, which can usually be found in your employment contract. Your right to bring an unfair dismissal claim can depend on whether you’re classed as an employee or not. Unfortunately, you do not have the right to challenge your dismissal if you are:

  • Self-employed
  • An agency worker
  • A police officer or a member of the armed forces
  • A registered dock worker
  • Working overseas or for a foreign government
  • A share fisherperson

Next, check how long you’ve worked for your employer as there are minimum qualifying periods in which you need to have been employed before you can bring an unfair dismissal claim, as mentioned earlier.

Finally, check whether the reason for your dismissal is considered unfair by law. Generally, your dismissal will have been unfair if:

  • You were discriminated against (e.g. for being pregnant, for having a disability, for following a particular religion etc)
  • You were dismissed for an ‘automatically’ unfair reason (e.g. because you have asked for your legal rights at work, you are a trade union member or you took part in trade union activities, etc) 

It is advisable to seek help from a third party as soon as possible to help resolve the situation with your employer, using mediation, conciliation or arbitration. They will try to find a solution that suits both you and your employer. You can also speak to your union rep if you’re a member of a trade union.

How to check if your dismissal was unfair

There are many scenarios in which your employer can dismiss you in a completely fair and legal way. These include:

  • You are not able to carry out your duties properly – e.g. you have not kept up with changes to your job
  • Redundancy
  • Gross misconduct
  • Continuing to employ you would break the law – e.g. you work as a bus driver and you no longer have your driver’s licence
  • It is impossible to continue to employ you – e.g. you have a long-term illness that makes it impossible for you to carry out your work duties
  • Other substantial reasons e.g. you unreasonably refuse to accept a company restructure which changes your terms of employment

Regardless of the reason for your dismissal, it is important that your employer follows the correct disciplinary procedures to ensure that you are treated fairly and have the chance to improve or discuss any concerns.

In certain circumstances you automatically have the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim, if you were dismissed because:

  • You are pregnant or on maternity leave
  • You took action about a health and safety issue in the workplace
  • You refused to give up your legal rights at work – e.g. the right to rest breaks

If your employer does not have a legitimate reason to dismiss you for any of the reasons mentioned above, then this could be classed as unfair dismissal.

If your employers’ conduct breaches your contract and forces you to leave against your will (otherwise known as constructive dismissal) then you must leave immediately, otherwise your employer could claim that you are accepting their conduct. It is important to seek advice before doing so to find out if you have a claim.

What happens if I can’t resolve a problem with my employer

If you have tried to resolve the issue with your employer and not been successful, then you can normally go to an employment tribunal.  

You must bring your unfair dismissal claim to an employment tribunal within three months of being dismissed. There is no qualifying period if you have been dismissed from 25 June 2013 due to your political views or affiliation and you will automatically have the right to go to an employment tribunal.

Get legal help with an unfair dismissal

Going to an employment tribunal can be stressful and costly, so it is important that you seek advice as soon as you are dismissed or if there is an issue at work. Our employment team has years of experience in all areas of employment law and can provide expert support and advice from the initial stages right through to an employment tribunal.

If you have a claim you’d like to discuss, call us on 01476 372046 or fill in our enquiry form to the right of this page.