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You're fired! - have you been unfairly dismissed?

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When an employee is dismissed from their employment, it is natural for that person to feel as if they have been treated unfairly. An employer is entitled to dismiss an employee provided they can show that the reason for the dismissal was one of five potentially fair reasons and that it acted reasonably in treating that reason as sufficient for dismissal.

An employer can fairly dismiss an employee for the following reasons; conduct, capability, redundancy, breach of statutory duty or restriction, or some other substantial reason. If the reason for dismissal is not one of the five reasons and/or the employer has acted unreasonably, the employee will have been unfairly dismissed.

As a general rule, an employee can only pursue an unfair dismissal claim if they have worked for the employer for a continuous period of two years. However, there are exceptions to this, for instance, if the dismissal is automatically unfair or discriminatory, an employee does not need to have worked for the qualifying period of two years in order to pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

A dismissal can be “automatically unfair”, if it is in breach of an employee’s statutory rights. This can range from being dismissed for health and safety reasons, for requesting flexible working time or for making a protected disclosure (whistleblowing) against the employer. If the Employment Tribunal finds that a dismissal is automatically unfair, it will award compensation to the employee.

If the dismissal was based on a protected characteristic (sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, disability, race or gender reassignment) listed in the Equality Act 2010, the employee may be able to pursue a discrimination claim against the employer. If successful, the employee may be awarded for financial loss and for injury to their feelings.

An employee has a limited timeframe in which to pursue claims against an employer in the Employment Tribunal. It is, therefore, extremely important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Otherwise, an employee may face additional hurdles or be prevented from bringing a claim altogether.

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.