Unfair dismissal – an employee’s perspective

A dismissal occurs when an employer terminates an employee’s contract of employment. Employees with 2 years’ continuous service with their employer have the right not to be unfairly dismissed.

However there are a number of specific reasons which will be deemed as automatically unfair which do not require any qualifying service period at all. There are also a number other claims, aside from dismissal, which an employee can bring from day 1 of employment.

Understanding fair reasons for dismissal

Reasons for dismissal are varied but a dismissal may be potentially fair if the employer is able to show that the reason (or the main reason) for the dismissal:

  • relates to the capability or qualifications of the employee required for the work they are employed to do;
  • relates to the conduct of the employee;
  • is that the employee was redundant;
  • is that the employee could not continue to carry out their role without breaching a statutory restriction; or
  • some other substantial reason.

Whether or not a dismissal will be considered fair will depend on whether, in the circumstances, the employer acted reasonably in treating it as a sufficient reason for dismissal.

Understanding unfair dismissal

Equally, there are a number of reasons which will render the dismissal automatically unfair so employees with less than 2 years’ service should not simply assume that they have no employment rights at all. At the very least, it is worth seeking advice to ensure that the employer has provided the correct notice.

There are strict time limits for pursuing a claim in the employment tribunal. In most cases, any action in the employment tribunal should be commenced within three months less a day of employment ending (or within three months less a day of the date the cause of action arose).

Due to changes in the law which came into effect on 6 May 2014, it is now compulsory to consult with ACAS regarding early conciliation before lodging a claim with the employment tribunal. Early conciliation will temporarily ‘pause’ the time limit for presenting a claim in the employment tribunal.

However the exact time limit will depend on when the early conciliation concludes. Employees contemplating legal action arising out of dismissal should ensure that they approach ACAS regarding early conciliation before the original time limit is due to expire.

If you have been dismissed from your employment and would like to know where you stand, we recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

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