Everything You Need To Know About Unfair Dismissal Claims


What is Unfair Dismissal?

Employees have certain legal rights relating to how their employment may be ended by their employer. If your employer sacks you and they did not have a reasonable justification for it, your dismissal could be unfair.

This means you could be entitled to claim redress, either in the form of compensation or some other remedy.

Making an unfair dismissal claim is not uncommon. In the year 2016 to 2017, the Employment Tribunal received 12,038 unfair dismissal claims.

Provided you meet the eligibility requirements (see ‘Can I claim for unfair dismissal?’ below), your employer must give you a reason why you are being fired. If the reason for this (or the main reason when there is more than one) cannot be justified as fair by your employer, you will be deemed to have been unfairly dismissed.

To assert your right not to be unfairly dismissed, you must apply to the Employment Tribunal, having commenced ACAS Early Conciliation in good time.

The Employment Tribunal

Employment tribunals are a system of courts separate from the usual civil court system (i.e. the County Court, High Court, Court of Appeal etc.). The employment tribunal deal only with employment law cases, such as unfair dismissal, discrimination claims, wrongful dismissal and redundancy matters, for example.

Cases begin in the Employment Tribunal, but decisions made there can sometimes be appealed in the Employment Appeal Tribunal and then to the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court.

If you would like a deeper explanation of unfair dismissal, read on through the rest of the resources on this page. However, there is no need for you to know all of this stuff to make a claim – that’s what we’re here for!

Contact us if you think you may have been the victim of an unfair dismissal.

Being sacked from your job is many people’s idea of a complete nightmare. Being unfairly dismissed from your job can feel ten times worse. On top of the usual worries – about how to pay the bills, keep on top of the mortgage payments, and look after your family – there is an added sense of injustice. Your employer has put you in this situation through their unfair behaviour.

If this has happened to you, it is an injustice you can fight. Truth Legal has a dedicated team of employment law specialists with the experience of helping countless clients who have been the victims of an unfair dismissal.

Why should I make an unfair dismissal claim?

By making an unfair dismissal claim, you could receive compensation for the loss of your job, and for other losses you have suffered as a result. Alternatively, you might wish to be reinstated in the position you lost, or re-employed in a similar job at your former organization.

But a claim can also provide something which may be equally important to you – justice. A successful unfair dismissal claim is recognition that your employer’s actions have been unreasonable and you should not have been fired.

Crucially, a successful unfair dismissal claim can achieve these results for you. Taking no action guarantees the injustice will stand.

At Truth Legal, our expert solicitors will help you get the outcome you deserve. We offer:

  • Fully qualified, specialist solicitors conducting your case.
  • A personalized service, which means you are treated as an individual and not just a case number.
  • Extensive experience in employment law and unfair dismissal claims.
  • Ethical handling of your claim from solicitors you can trust.

Begin your unfair dismissal claim with Truth Legal by booking an employment consultation here.

Case study… Mr F’s unfair dismissal claim

Truth Legal acted for a gentleman, Mr F, who worked for a government body. He worked from home remotely and had been employed for over 25 years. Unfortunately, Mr F’s circumstances at home were difficult, as his wife and his daughter were both suffering from cancer.

Mr F’s problems at work began when he was allocated to a new line manager. The two only met face-to-face once, but they took an instant dislike to each other. Over the months that followed, Mr F and his manager worked together as normal, with emails being exchanged roughly every fortnight. The relationship then soured. The government body could have changed line managers but opted not to.

Mr F’s employers then dismissed him on the grounds that his behaviour was disruptive – citing that it was a Some Other Substantial Reason dismissal. This was at the instigation of Mr F’s line manager. Although Mr F and his manager had never been on good terms, their infrequent emails were not openly hostile and Mr F’s remote working situation meant they had not been in each other’s presence since their initial meeting.

Mr F brought an unfair dismissal claim. His trade union allocated his case to a firm of solicitors but the firm believed he did not have sufficient prospects of succeeding.

Mr F contacted Truth Legal, who agreed to take over his case. Without having to proceed to an employment tribunal hearing, Truth Legal was able to secure him £25,000 in compensation for his unfair dismissal.

Can I claim for unfair dismissal?

The first step to any unfair dismissal claim is establishing whether you meet the eligibility requirements. The right not to be unfairly dismissed is only available to people who meet these requirements.

To be eligible, you must have been:

  • An employee (not a worker or an independent contractor)
  • Employed continuously for more than 2 years
  • Dismissed

Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these in turn:

You were an employee

In everyday language, an employee often just means someone who works for someone else. But the legal definition of the word is a lot stricter.

Many employment law rights are tied to your employment status. This table gives an idea of how these rights breakdown in relation to employees, workers and self-employed contractors:

Employee Worker Self-employed
Statutory Sick Pay
Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave and pay Workers receive pay only – not leave
Minimum notice periods
Unfair dismissal protection
Right to request flexible working
Time off for emergencies
Statutory redundancy pay
National Minimum Wage
Protection from unlawful deduction from wages
Working time protections
Protection from unlawful discrimination Some contractors may receive protection
If working part-time, protection from discrimination on that basis
Protection for whistleblowing Some contractors may receive protection

It is your actual employment relationship which determines your employment status – not what others, or you, might believe. Even if your former ‘employer’ believes you are not an employee, it does not necessarily mean they are correct! If in doubt, get advice.

Where your employment status is in dispute, it will be for an Employment Tribunal to decide whether you were in fact an employee or not. The Employment Tribunal will delve into the actual details of the relationship between you and your ‘employer’, and will make a decision on the facts.

As an example of this kind of dispute, the recent controversy involving Uber, the taxi company, centred on whether its drivers worked for the company or were self-employed. Although Uber argued their drivers were self-employed, the Employment Tribunal decided otherwise.

Read our blog post: What are my rights? Employment Status and the Gig Economy for more information on this topic.

So how do you know whether you are an employee or not?

Employees are legally defined as someone who has entered into, or works under, a contract of employment.

Most contracts of employment will be in writing, and you will have signed a copy when you started working for your employer. However, the law also recognises implied contracts of employment – i.e. contracts that have not been written down but can be ‘assumed’ to exist by the nature of the working relationship between you and your employer.

This can be confusing, but some of the main indications that you are an employee include:

  • A written contract of employment.
  • An employee handbook.
  • Paying PAYE tax.
  • Not responsible for your own tax returns etc
  • Having a work-based pension plan.

Definition of employee:

The legal definition of an employee is contained in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (at s.230).

If you are in any doubt over your employment status, contact us to discuss your circumstances.

You were employed for over 2 years

In most cases, protection from being unfairly sacked or fired only begins when you have been employed for 2 or more years continuously.

The word ‘continuously’ is significant. Some interruptions in your employment may prevent you from meeting the 2-year continuous employment requirement.

The provisions for working out what is continuous employment are complicated, but in general terms:

  • Your employment is presumed to be continuous unless your employer can show otherwise.

This minimum period of continuous employment can be a major obstacle to unfair dismissal claims. An unscrupulous employer might fire their employee before the necessary length of service has been reached, deliberately to avoid a potential unfair dismissal claim.

However, if you have not been continuously employed for the minimum period, there are situations where you may still be able to make an unfair dismissal claim. These are where:

  • You were dismissed for a reason connected with a “protected characteristic” i.e. you were discriminated against on the grounds of:
    • Age
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
    • Disability
    • Gender reassignment
    • Marital status
    • Pregnancy and maternity
    • Religion or belief
    • Race/nationality/ethnicity
  • You were dismissed because of union membership or activities.
  • You were dismissed for being a member of the reserve armed forces.
  • An exception specified in the Employment Rights Act 1996 applies. There are a number of specified exceptions. Some of the most significant ones are listed below. In general terms, they protect employees in dismissals which relate to:
    • Jury service
    • Leave for family reasons
    • Health and safety matters
    • Working time cases (where there have been breaches of the Working Time Regulations 1998)
    • Making a protected disclosure (also known as whistleblowing)
    • Asserting certain statutory rights (for example, the right to a minimum wage)
    • Flexible working
    • Redundancy

You were dismissed

To claim unfair dismissal, you must have been dismissed by your employer. This may sound obvious, especially if dismissal is given its everyday meaning – i.e. that you were sacked or fired from your job. However, in most situations, you cannot claim unfair dismissal if you resigned or decided to leave your job yourself.

There are some important exceptions to this. For example:

  • If you were pressured into leaving, such as in situations where you were told to ‘resign or be dismissed’, your departure may still be considered a dismissal; or
  • If you can successfully prove there was a ‘constructive dismissal’ – see ‘Different dismissals: Unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal, and wrongful dismissal

A dismissal can include other, less obvious ways for your employment contract to end. For example, if you worked under a fixed-term contract and it was not renewed at the end of the term, this can constitute a dismissal.

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