The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Dismissal from Work

If your employer wants to dismiss you from your job, they are required by the law to follow certain procedures to ensure that everything is done fairly. Make sure you know your employment rights in a dismissal situation.

Dismissal is when your employer brings your employment contract to an end, thereby terminating your job with them. In order to do this, they must follow an appropriate dismissal procedure.

Many different actions by your employer count as dismissal, some of which are more straightforward than others. Things your employer may do that count as dismissal include:

  • ending your employment
  • not renewing a fixed-term contract after it has ended
  • making you redundant (including voluntary redundancy)
  • making it impossible for you to continue working in some way, leading you to resign (this is known as constructive dismissal)
  • making you feel as though you have to resign
  • laying you off or putting you on short-time working despite this not being permitted by your contract
  • not letting you come back to work after maternity leave
  • prohibiting you from coming back to work after industrial action (a strike) or a lockout

In most cases, your employer should give you a notice period for being dismissed. If this is not stated in your contract of employment, then the law sets out the statutory minimum notice periods your employer must obey, depending on how long you have worked for them.

The minimum legal notice periods are as follows:

Length of time worked for employer Amount of notice they must give
Less than a month No notice period, though you are entitled to “reasonable” notice, which will usually be based on how often you are paid
One month or more One week’s notice
Two years or more Two weeks' notice
Every additional year beyond two years One additional week’s notice, to a maximum of 12 weeks

Although it is rare, your employer could dismiss you without giving notice on grounds of gross misconduct. Gross misconduct is when you commit a serious offence such as physical violence against a co-worker or theft of company property. In these situations your employer may dismiss you from work immediately and does not have to keep you on to work through any notice period. However, they must still follow a fair process in reaching this decision.

Reasons for dismissal

In order to dismiss you in any circumstances, your employer must have a good reason for doing so and follow the appropriate procedures accordingly.

There are a number of reasons which your employer may give to justify a dismissal. Potentially fair reasons include:

  • You are not able to perform your role properly – for example, if you are performing poorly and you have shown no signs of improving following training and assistance.
  • You are suffering from an illness which means you cannot do your job – though your employer must first consider any reasonable changes they could make to accommodate your needs, and give you a chance to recover. If you become disabled due to an illness or accident, your employer can only dismiss you if it is genuinely no longer possible for you to do your job as a result – otherwise it will likely count as discrimination.
  • Your job role is no longer required or your employer has to reduce their workforce – this is known as redundancy (see below for more details). If you are selected for redundancy, your employer must have fair reasons for selecting you.
  • You have committed an act of gross misconduct, such as physical violence, theft or being drunk at work. In cases like this, you will face summary dismissal – that is, dismissal without a notice period.
  • Your employer is no longer able to employ you without breaching the law – for example, if you are working in a sensitive position and receive a criminal record.
  • It is impossible to carry on employing you – for example, if the factory in which you work burns down.
  • Any other substantial reason meaning they can no longer employ you.

Unfair dismissal

If you have been dismissed but your employer did not have a fair reason to do so, or they did not follow the proper dismissal procedure, you might have a claim for unfair dismissal.

For more information on this topic, including how to recognise unfair dismissal and what to do if you have been a victim, view our unfair dismissal guide.

Constructive and wrongful dismissal

If you have resigned from your job but felt as though you were forced to do so due to circumstances in the workplace, you may have been a victim of constructive dismissal. This is when your employer makes your working conditions so intolerable that you feel you have no choice but to quit.

Another form of dismissal is wrongful dismissal, in which your employer breached your contract due to the way in which they dismissed you.

Both of these could potentially allow you to make a claim against your employer – visit our page on constructive and wrongful dismissal to find out more.