Employment Disputes: Everything You Need to Know

Facing a dispute or dismissal at work? Our FAQs help you explore your rights and what you can do to resolve an issue in the workplace. 

What happens when I’m being dismissed or made redundant?

In most cases, dismissal or redundancy isn’t an instant decision but a drawn-out process. During this time, you’ll meet with senior staff members who will explain why the decision has been made and how it affects you. Make sure you’re properly prepared for these meetings.

During disciplinary hearings, your employer will present the evidence against you – for example, if you’ve been accused of bullying a colleague, your manager may produce a statement from a witness. You’ll also have a chance to present your own evidence and supporting documents to prove your innocence.
For redundancy, where your job role is no longer required, your employer should consult with you on reasonable alternative job roles within the company.

Speak to an employment solicitor if you believe you’re being unfairly treated or targeted.

Can I bring someone else into these meetings?

It’s unlikely that you’ll need a ‘companion’ for most dismissal or redundancy meetings, unless you need specific assistance from a carer or support worker, but you are entitled to one if you’re concerned.

If you’re facing disciplinary action, you have the right to bring along a companion to your hearing and any later appeal. Choose a colleague or employee representative who understands the case. While your companion can speak for you, they can’t answer questions on your behalf.

Unless your employer agrees, you will not be allowed to take along a legal representative.

When can my employer dismiss me?

‘Fair’ dismissal must meet at least two criteria: your employer must have a good reason for dismissing you and it must follow the correct process.

Generally, these fall into six categories.
  • Redundancy – the company has gone bust or your job no longer exists.
  • Conduct – poor conduct at work would include stealing, insubordination, and bullying
  • Capability – you can’t perform your job despite adequate training
  • Long-term illness – a long-term or persistent illness prevents you undertaking your role, despite employer support
  • Reorganisation – to prevent redundancies, the company reorganises and you refuse to take on a reasonable alternative job
  • Statutory restrictions – you don’t meet the legal requirements for the job, for example, a driver that’s lost their licence.

What happens if my employer doesn’t have a dismissal process?

All businesses should have a process for disciplinaries, dismissal, or redundancies – you can usually find this set out in your employee handbook. Processes vary from company to company, although some simply follow the guidelines laid out by ACAS.

If your employer has no process to follow, you could be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal and should speak to a solicitor.

Can anyone make an unfair dismissal or redundancy claim?

You can make a claim for redundancy or unfair dismissal so long as you’ve worked for the company for two or more years, you have employee status as defined by ACAS, and believe the selection process was flawed.
Depending on your job or employment status, you may also be prevented from bringing a claim against your employer, even if you meet these requirements.

Find out more in our guide, ‘Can I make a redundancy claim?’

What’s the difference between unfair, constructive, and wrongful dismissal?

Unfair dismissal happens when your employer has no reason to fire you or doesn’t follow the correct process.
Constructive dismissal occurs when you feel you have to quit because of the actions of your employer. That might mean they haven’t paid you or allowed colleagues to harass you.

Wrongful dismissal is when your employer doesn’t give you a proper notice period or won’t pay you.

What can I do if I faced discrimination at work?

If you believe you’ve been discriminated at work, you should speak to an employment solicitor.

Under the Equality Act 2010, your employer cannot legally discriminate against you based on your ‘protected characteristics’. These are characteristics fundamental to who you are, and include age, race, gender, sexuality, and marital status.

There are two types of discrimination you may face. Direct discrimination is when an employer targets you because of your protected characteristics. Indirect discrimination is less easy to prove, but as an example, it might be where your manager has introduced a rule that unfairly impacts men over women.

Explore our guide ‘What counts as discrimination at work?’

Can I appeal my employer’s dismissal or redundancy decision?

It is your legal right to appeal any dismissal, disciplinary, or redundancy decision made by your employer.
Don’t take your case straight to an employment tribunal – it may harm your case if you don’t first appeal to your employer.

After your initial meeting or consultation, you’ll be informed of the outcome in writing – this let should also outline how to lodge an appeal with the company within 5 days.

You should appeal if you believe the process was mishandled, the decision is unfair, or you have further evidence in your favour. In your appeal, explain why you believe the decision is wrong and how you’d like to proceed.

In some cases, such as a disciplinary, your appeal may trigger a new hearing or simply a review of the existing evidence.

Remember, an appeal doesn’t guarantee a reversal of any decision made.

Do I have to accept an alternative job offer from my employer?

You don’t have to accept any reasonable alternative job offer. These jobs are usually similar to your current role, match your previous experience, and offer the same sort of salary.

However, if your employer is reorganising the company and you refuse the job, they would have grounds for dismissing you.

During a redundancy consultation, an employer can offer you a new role if available. You don’t have to take it, but if you make a redundancy claim and take your employer to a tribunal, not accepting a reasonable alternative role can reduce your compensation award.

What is the process when making an unfair dismissal, disciplinary, discrimination, or redundancy claim?

Before making a claim, you should see if the matter can be resolved by talking to your employer.

If you’ve decided to make a claim and you haven’t already engaged a legal representative, now is the time to do that – The Law Superstore can help you compare and connect with expert employment solicitors.

You can’t immediately take your employer to an employment tribunal. Your first step is to inform ACAS of your intentions. Your solicitor can also do this if you don’t feel confident. This independent public body, which aims to ‘make working life better for everyone in Britain’, will then offer you a type of mediation called ‘early conciliation’.
If you and your employer can resolve the matter, you’ll receive a legally binding agreement.

If you can’t, you will receive a document letting you take your employer to an employment tribunal.

Even after making a claim, your employer may ask you to settle the matter. Your solicitor will it’s best to agree, negotiate, or continue pursuing the claim.

Do I have to attend early conciliation provided by ACAS?

Early conciliation is voluntary – neither you nor your employer can be forced to attend.

However, an employment tribunal will expect you to have exhausted all avenues before bringing the claim to them, so refusing to engage in early conciliation may harm your case.

Do I need a solicitor during an employment dispute?

You don’t need a solicitor to make a claim, but many people choose to since tribunals can be scary, stressful, confusing, and take up a lot of time.

Legal professionals help make the process easier for you, while making sure every step is correct. After all, you don’t want you claim thrown out or delayed because you filed the wrong document.

We have lots of solicitors qualified in employment law who can offer the very best advice at prices that match every budget.

What happens at an employment tribunal?

Before attending the tribunal, you’ll be asked to write a witness statement outlining your case.

During an employment tribunal, a panel of experts will hear both sides of the case. Both you and your employer will be questioned – you can ask these questions yourself or use a representative (which is why it’s a good idea to employ a solicitor).

Once all the evidence has been heard, both parties will be asked for final comments, known as ‘closing submissions’. Use this opportunity to sum up your claim and explain why the tribunal should favour you.

The panel will then go away to make a judgement. You’ll be informed either on the day or in writing at a later date.

Can I appeal an employment tribunal decision?

You can only appeal a judgement if you believe a legal mistake was made. It’s unlikely the Employment Appeal Tribunal will re-investigate the facts of the case.

Appeals must be made within 42 days of a decision being made.

Does COVID-19 affect my employment rights?

The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t change your employment rights – in fact, the government had stipulated that your rights must remain intact. So, employers can’t use the pandemic as an excuse to pay you less or make you work longer hours.

A good example of this is redundancy pay. If you’ve been furloughed by your employer and they then choose to make you redundant, you must receive redundancy pay based on your actual contracted salary, not the 80% furlough salary you’re currently being paid.

Your rights also apply when furloughed, with the government stating, ‘when your employer is making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.’

What is a work dispute?

A work dispute arises when there's a disagreement or conflict between an employee and employer. This can involve issues like dismissal, redundancy, unfair treatment, or discrimination.

What constitutes unfair treatment in the workplace?

Unfair treatment at work can include discrimination based on protected characteristics, wrongful dismissal, or being subjected to unreasonable working conditions. It's important to understand your rights under the Equality Act 2010.

How can I resolve an employment dispute?

To resolve an employment dispute, start by discussing the issue with your employer. If unresolved, consider mediation through ACAS or seek legal advice. Employment tribunals are an option if other methods fail.

How do I file a complaint against an unfair employer? 

If you're facing unfair treatment by your employer, you can file a complaint by first talking to your employer or HR department. If this doesn't resolve the issue, seek legal advice or contact ACAS for mediation.

What should I expect during dismissal or redundancy meetings?

Expect to discuss the reasons for your dismissal or redundancy. You'll have the opportunity to present your case and should be prepared with any relevant evidence or documents.