What is Unfair Dismissal?

Anita North
National Head of Employment

Unfair dismissal is when an employer dismisses an employee without good reason or without following formal disciplinary or dismissal procedures.

If you’ve been sacked from your job, we understand you’re probably feeling upset and frustrated, especially if you think you’ve been let go unfairly.

If you think you have been unfairly dismissed, you could take legal action by taking your claim to an Employment Tribunal. But first, it’s important to establish whether your dismissal was in fact unfair.

Our Employment Law Solicitors can look at your case and tell you whether we think you’ve experienced unfair dismissal and advise you on your next steps. Get in touch for expert legal advice.  

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

Examples of Unfair Dismissal

There are a few situations which are classed as ‘automatically unfair’ reasons for dismissal.

They include:

  • Joining a trade union
  • Taking part in lawful industrial action, lasting 12 weeks or less
  • Undertaking jury service
  • Taking maternity, paternity or adoption leave that you’re entitled to
  • Whistleblowing
  • Asking for flexible working
  • Asking for certain legal rights at work
  • Refusing to give up your working time rights

If you’ve experienced any of the above, you could have been dismissed unfairly.

Checking if you were Unfairly Dismissed

Before challenging your dismissal, you need to prove that it happened unfairly. If you’ve got evidence of your dismissal, such as a letter or email, you’ll need to keep it to hand if you decide to bring a claim.

You also need to check your employment status and reason for unfair dismissal. To be eligible for an unfair dismissal claim, you have to be a full-time, part-time or fixed term employee. If you’re self-employed, an agency worker or in the armed forces, you unfortunately don’t have the legal right to make an unfair dismissal claim.

If you’re unsure about your employment status, because your employer has described you as a worker or self-employed our Employment Law Solicitors can help you determine your employment status and legal rights.

Your employer should have told you the reason for your dismissal. If you’ve worked for your employer for at least two years or you’re dismissed whilst pregnant, you’ve got the right to ask for a written statement of reasons for your dismissal.

Claiming for Discrimination

If you think your dismissal was down to discrimination, you have the right to challenge the dismissal.

By law, your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your:

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Gender reassignment
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion or beliefs
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy or maternity

If you believe you were discriminated against by your employer and unfairly dismissed as a result, get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors for legal advice.

Constructive Dismissal

If you had no choice but to leave your job because of something serious your employer has done, this is known as constructive dismissal.

For example, if your employer:

  • Demoted you for no reason or didn’t pay you
  • Changed your working conditions without your consent e.g. making you work different or longer hours
  • Was complicit with harassment and/or bullying

All of the above are direct breaches of your employment contract and could mean you’ve got a case for a constructive dismissal claim.

How to make a Claim for Unfair Dismissal

If you think you have been unfairly dismissed, you need to submit an official appeal through your employer’s appeal process. If this does not resolve your complaint, and you decide you want to take things further, you can take your claim to an Employment Tribunal. Most employers will want to avoid going to an Employment Tribunal so may try to resolve the issue through a Settlement Agreement.

We understand that making a claim can feel daunting and you might be unsure where you stand. Our Employment Law Solicitors can take the pressure off your shoulders and handle the whole process for you. We’ll review your situation for unfair dismissal and advise you on whether we think you should bring an Employment Tribunal claim.

We can also negotiate with your employer on your behalf to make sure you’re getting a fair outcome, whether this is compensation for a loss of earnings or being reinstated in your role.

Time Limits for Unfair Dismissal Claims

There’s a strict time limit of 3 months less one day from your last day of employment, to make an unfair dismissal claim. It’s important to get legal advice as soon as you can so you don’t miss this deadline and have time to put together the strongest possible case.

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