Have I been unfairly dismissed from my job?

Not sure if you’ve been fairly or unfairly dismissed from your job? It’s helpful to understand what constitutes unfair dismissal before taking further action.

When can you be unfairly dismissed?

Just because you believe you’ve been unfairly dismissed from work doesn’t mean you’re entitled to make a claim. You’re only eligible if:
  • You’ve worked for the company for two or more years
  • You’re a contracted employee, as defined by ACAS’s types of employment status

  Find out more in our guide ‘Unfairly dismissed? What you need to know about making a claim’

You can’t claim unfair dismissal if you are:
  • Self-employed or an independent contractor
  • Serving in the army
  • A police officer
  • Legally bound by a settlement agreement with your employer
  • Engaged in unlawful industrial action
  • Employed under an illegal contract
  • A fisherman paid by profits or share of earnings from a sea-faring vessel

If you don’t qualify but still face workplace disputes, it’s best to speak to an employment solicitor who can help see if you can still make a claim.

When can a company fairly dismiss you?

Before looking at what actually counts as unfair dismissal, it’s worth noting what constitutes a ‘fair dismissal’.
If a company dismisses you from your job, they need to prove two things:
  • There was a good reason for your dismissal
  • The correct process was properly followed

A ‘fair’ reason for dismissal would include:


If your employer has been forced to make redundancies or your job no longer exists. During the redundancy process, you’ll meet with senior staff and may be offered a reasonable alternative role at the company. You don’t have to accept this job, but it could reduce any compensation due should an employment tribunal find in your favour during an unfair dismissal claim.

Workplace conduct

Engaging in what’s called ‘gross misconduct’ – from harassing colleagues to stealing from the company – will trigger an investigation by your employer. If they believe your conduct is poor, they can fairly dismiss you.

Job capability

Your employer can reasonably expect you to be able to perform your job to a good standard. However, they should provide adequate training to make sure you understand how to perform in your role. Not doing so could lead to a claim of unfair dismissal.

Long-term illness

A business can’t just fire you because you’re ill. In fact, most employers should offer some form of support to get you back into the role. But they can dismiss you if a long-term or persistent illness means you can no longer undertake your duties. If you’re disabled, and your employer can’t make reasonable adjustments, this may also qualify as a fair dismissal.


When a company undergoes reorganisation, usually in a bid to prevent redundancies, you may be asked to accept alterations to your working terms and conditions. If you refuse to accept contract changes, a ‘fair’ dismissal is on the cards.

Statutory restrictions

If your job has certain requirements and you can’t legally obtain or meet those requirements – for example, you’re a lorry driver who’s lost your driver’s licence – your employer could dismiss you, as you can no longer carry out the work.

In these instances, so long as the right procedure was followed, your employer could reasonably argue that your dismissal was fair.

The dismissal process tends to vary between companies, so it’s best to check your employee handbook for the exact details. If your employer doesn’t have a process for dismissals, it might automatically be a case of unfair dismissal.

An employment solicitor can help you figure out whether or not you can make a claim.

What is automatic unfair dismissal?

Automatic unfair dismissals occur when you’ve clearly faced discrimination because of activities outside of work.

If you and your solicitor can prove that any of the following were the sole or primary reason for dismissal, an employment tribunal should automatically find in your favour. You can loosely group these reasons into:
  • ‘Absentees’

Your employer can’t lawfully dismiss you just because you’re pregnant, on maternity leave, or serving on a jury. Nor can your employer force you to take ‘compulsory retirement’.
  • ‘Trouble-makers’

Engaging in whistle-blowing, raising health and safety concerns, taking lawful industrial action, joining (or not joining) or representing a trade union, or requesting employment rights are not legal reasons for dismissal.
Automatic unfair dismissal isn’t the same as discriminatory dismissal. If you believed you’ve been dismissed because of your protected characteristics, as laid out in the Equality Act 2010, then your solicitor will likely advise you to lodge a discrimination claim.

What are the outcomes of an unfair dismissal claim?

After discussing your dismissal with your employer, and appealing the decision, it’s possible you’ll be able to take the company you work for to an employment tribunal.

Your solicitor will be able to prepare you for what is a big step – a tribunal can take time to settle the matter and can be very stressful.

If the tribunal finds that your employer has unfairly dismissed you, they could be ordered to:
  • Give you your job back
  • Employ you in a different role

In addition to a fixed-rate statutory basic award, your employer may also have to pay out a compensation award. This pay-out, based on your age, weekly pay, and length of service, is capped, except in whistle-blowing and health and safety claims.

To make sure your unfair dismissal claim is a success, it’s always best to chat about workplace disputes with a solicitor. They’ll expertly guide you through the legal process to help you get your claim right first time.

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Steve Clark

Steve creates helpful guides for The Law Superstore. He enjoys digging deep into new areas of the law, supporting partners, and translating legalese and jargon into plain English everyone can understand.

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