Being dismissed from your job is never going to be a pleasant experience. Neither is dismissing someone. However, being fired without good reason is against the law, and is called unfair dismissal.
What is Unfair Dismissal?
Employers are entitled to dismiss members of staff if they can justify that the employee:
- Is not keeping up-to-date with essential changes, such as adapting to new computer systems
- Is not willing or able to work well with colleagues
- Has poor conduct, including disobedience, theft, bullying, violence and poor timekeeping and/or attendance
- Has a long-term illness which prevents them from doing their job
A fair, explained redundancy or a dismissal which is necessary in order to comply with the law is also permitted.
However, if the company’s formal disciplinary procedure isn’t followed before a dismissal occurs, then that dismissal could be unfair. Usually the procedure includes several verbal warnings and a final written warning before a formal dismissal takes place. Basically, dismissal should be the last port of call after all other avenues have been exhausted.
Employers should give employees the opportunity to improve and resolve problems, so even if you’ve been dismissed for a legitimate reason, you may have been dismissed unfairly if you employer didn’t allow for this to happen.
Why Can Someone Claim Unfair Dismissal?
If an employee believes that their employer hasn’t followed the correct disciplinary process, they could file a claim for unfair dismissal. However, this isn’t the only time when dismissal is classed as unfair.
If you were dismissed for one of the following reasons, then it is instantly classed as automatically unfair:
- You were pregnant
- You were on maternity leave
- You have joined a trade union or act as an employee representative
- You acted as a whistle-blower
- You raised concerns over a health and safety issue
- You asserted your legal rights, such as your right to minimum wage
These instances would be considered as automatically unfair because they breach your statutory legal rights. If the case is classed as automatically unfair, the employer doesn’t have the right to defend their case at all.
What Can You Do About It?
As an employee, if both of the following apply then you can appoint a solicitor to file a claim against your ex-employer:
- You were dismissed in the last three months
- You had been working at the company for at least two years
The only way an employment tribunal will overlook these requirements is if your claim is considered automatically unfair or involves one of the nine protected characteristics (age, race, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, disability, sex, marital status, pregnancy and religion).
Your best bet is to appoint an employment law solicitor as soon as possible after you have been dismissed. They can then go through your case with you and represent you in the employment tribunal.