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If your employer terminated your employment unlawfully, you may be able to make an unfair dismissal claim.

Losing your job under any circumstances can be hard to deal with, especially when it’s unexpected and you feel like it was the wrong or an unfair decision.

In cases where your employer may have acted illegally to remove you from your position, there are two types of claims you can make:

  • Redundancy – when you’re dismissed as the role is no longer required but your employer fails to follow proper procedures or keeps the job open.
  • Unfair dismissal – when your employer terminates your contract without just reasons, or they fail to follow fair employment procedures.

If you believe your employer discriminated against you, failed to provide the correct notice period or acted unlawfully around your dismissal in any way, we can help. Our specialist team of unfair dismissal solicitors have successfully brought claims to national employment tribunals, securing compensation and justice for many workers.

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What is unfair dismissal?

Unfair dismissal is when you are let go from your job unexpectedly or without genuine reason. It is sometimes also referred to as unlawful dismissal.

There are only five reasons an employer can fairly dismiss an employee. These are because of:

  • Employee conduct – such as missing work, persistent lateness and for disciplinary reasons.
  • Employee capability – if they cannot properly perform their job role and handle its responsibilities.
  • Redundancy – the role is no longer needed.
  • Illegality – if the employee could not continue to work in their position without being in contravention of the law.
  • Other substantial reasons – such as losing your driving licence for roles that require transportation.

Anything that falls outside these fair grounds could result in an unfair dismissal claim. One of the most common examples of unfair dismissal is discrimination. This means being let go because of a characteristic which is protected by law such as your age, sex, disability, race or religion. You may also be able to make a claim if you resign because an employer has seriously breached your contract. This is known as constructive dismissal.

Can I claim for unlawful dismissal?

In most cases, you will only be eligible for a claim if you have worked continuously for your employer for at least two years.

This means your employer must follow the proper procedures for dismissal, including giving the right notice period as outlined in your contract.

If you qualify for the above, you also have the right to ask for a written statement explaining why your employer has dismissed you from your position.

Automatic unfair dismissal

In some cases, you might be able to make an unfair dismissal claim if you only worked for your employer for a short period of time. Automatic unfair dismissal may apply from day one of your employment if you are dismissed for:

  • Being pregnant.
  • Applying for or being on maternity, paternity or parental leave.
  • Joining a union or being a union representative.
  • Whistleblowing.
  • Asking for flexible working.
  • Exercising or trying to exercise the employment rights you are entitled to under the law.

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Get in touch

Call us today on 020 7650 1200 or fill in our short form and we will call you back

How to claim for unfair dismissal

If you feel the reason behind your dismissal was unlawful or discriminatory, you can bring your claim to an employment tribunal. There are strict limits when making a claim to an employment tribunal.

In most cases, the tribunal will only consider your claim if they receive it within three months minus one day of the date that your employment ended.

You must contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) before submitting your claim. Acas may be able to offer an ‘early conciliation’. Here an agreement is made between you and your employer without the need for a tribunal. Even if you don’t want early conciliation you need to have contacted Acas before you can submit your unfair dismissal claim to the employment tribunal.

The cost of making an unfair dismissal claim

Taking a claim to an employment tribunal can be a stressful and costly procedure. That’s why it’s important to seek advice from a specialist unfair dismissal solicitor to understand your chances of success.

If your claim is successful, you may receive compensation made up of a ‘basic award’ calculated on your age and length of service, and/or redundancy pay; and a ‘compensatory award’ potentially covering loss of earnings until you find a new job, any money you lost from an improper notice period, and unpaid holiday pay (see below). These calculations are not straightforward and can depend on various factors including whether you have actively tried to find a new job since being unfairly dismissed. It is therefore important to keep a record of your job searches*.

Find out more about the potential cost of bringing claims of unfair or wrongful dismissal*.

*Employment law is complicated and the information provided should not be relied on or used as a substitute for legal advice.

Our work across unfair dismissal

When Kim Beaney faced daily harassment at the hands of her employer, she didn’t know what to do. But with the support of our solicitor Nick Webster, Kim successfully brought an employment tribunal claim for sexual harassment and discriminatory dismissal against Highways England.

Watch her story below.

Unfair dismissal FAQs

You must have worked for a company for a qualifying period of time to claim unfair dismissal. This qualifying period is usually after two years of employment.

However, the time limit does not apply if the reason for dismissal is classed as automatically unfair. This is when an employer acted unlawfully around issues such as pregnancy and maternity, family leave, flexible and part-time working, trade union activities or other employment law rights such as whistleblowing, working hours and minimum wages. 

If your unfair dismissal claim is successful, you are usually entitled to two types of compensation:

  • Basic award – a fixed sum calculated based on how long you were in the job, your age and weekly pay.
  • Compensatory award – this takes into consideration any money lost because of the dismissal, such as holiday pay, redundancy packages, notice periods, and loss of pension. This award is variable depending on many factors.

Your solicitor may ask for evidence of discrimination or unlawful practices by your employer. This is to help improve your chances of bringing a successful unfair dismissal claim.

Firstly, you should ask your employer for a written reason for your dismissal. If you believe they acted unfairly, you can then appeal your employer’s decision.

You should also contact Acas within three months less one day of losing your job. They can try and help reach an agreement between you and your employer to avoid going to an employment tribunal.

Any emails, letters or documents between your employer and yourself around your dismissal may also be needed as evidence. You should therefore keep all of these safely.

At Leigh Day, we have represented thousands of workers around employment rights claims, including those for unfair or unlawful dismissals.

We’ve challenged some of the biggest companies in the UK to secure compensation and justice for their workers.

No matter your role or sector, we offer the same level of support and guidance to bring an unfair dismissal claim. Contact us today for a free initial consultation about your case.