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Unfair Dismissal Laws

When an employer doesn't have a good reason for their decision to dismiss someone, or doesn't follow the appropriate procedures when doing so, the dismissed employee may be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal.

If your employer wishes to dismiss you, they must have a good reason for doing so and must follow appropriate procedures. If they fail on either of these counts, you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal.

Another situation in which you could make a claim for unfair dismissal is if the reason for your dismissal is inconsistent with the treatment of other employees - for example, if you are dismissed for doing something that other employees are allowed to do. Another example is if your employer did not fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the reason they dismissed you - for example, if a colleague made accusations about your conduct in the workplace and your employer failed to verify these claims.

In most cases, you must have worked for your employer for a certain amount of time before it is possible for you to make a claim for unfair dismissal. Since 6th April 2012, you are ordinarily required to have been with your employer for at least two years before you can make a claim for unfair dismissal.

However, there are exceptions to this time limit, because some reasons for dismissal are automatically unfair regardless of how long you have been in a job role. You have probably suffered automatically unfair dismissal if you were dismissed because:

  • You were pregnant or on maternity leave, or for any reason related to these.
  • You were trying to enforce any right you have under employment law.
  • You were involved in ‘whistleblowing’ on a matter of public importance.
  • You took action on a health and safety issue.
  • You joined a trade union or took part in trade union activities.
  • You acted as a representative for another employee during grievance or disciplinary proceedings.
  • You worked in a shop or a betting shop and refused to work on Sundays, unless you were specifically hired to only work on Sundays.

Additionally, if you believe that you were dismissed for a discriminatory reason, even if you have not worked for your employer for the necessary time in order to claim for unfair dismissal, you can still make a claim against them for discrimination. See our discrimination section for more details.

For more information on how to identify whether you have been unfairly dismissed, watch this video from experience employment solicitor Jayne Nevins, who will talk you through unfair dismissal laws and when they apply.

Strikes and industrial action

If you are striking or taking part in industrial action, this can affect whether you are considered to have been unfairly dismissed or not.

A strike is when an employee or group of employees enforce a break in their work as an official demonstration. "Industrial action short of a strike", as described in the section 229(2) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, may include an overtime ban, or conducting a rest-day working for the purpose of authorizing industrial action.

If an employee is taking part in unofficial strike action at the time of their dismissal then their employer is immune from any unfair dismissal claim, unless the dismissal was for a reason deemed automatically unfair.

If employees take part in official strike action then it may be possible for the employer to fairly dismiss all of said employees. However, the dismissal(s) will be automatically unfair if the employer selectively dismisses certain members of staff or bases the dismissal on an automatically unfair reason.

This will include the circumstance where the strike action was official and the relevant union satisfied all the steps required to make the strike action protected, but the employees are dismissed within the first 12 weeks of the strike action.