What You Need to Know About Making a Claim When You've Been Unfairly Dismissed?

There are many reasons a business can dismiss you from your job – but they can never be ‘unfair’. If you’re concerned about the hows and the whys surrounding your dismissal, explore out if you’re entitled to make an unfair dismissal claim.  

What is considered unfair dismissal in the UK?

Unfair dismissal happens when your employer fires you without a good reason, or fails to follow the proper dismissal or disciplinary process.

If the company you work for fails on at these two areas, you could be able to make an unfair dismissal claim. As with any legal process, it’s often a bit more complex than that – make sure you have a good understanding of the topic before taking the matter further.  

What counts as unfair dismissal?

You’re likely the victim of unfair dismissal if you’ve been fired because:
  • You’re pregnant
  • You’re on jury service
  • You’ve engaged in whistle-blowing (insert short description of that here)
  • You’ve raised or intend to take action over health and safety issues
  • You’ve requested a legal employment right such as receiving minimum wage
  • You’ve joined, represent, or taken industrial action as part of a trade union
  • You’ve been asked to take ‘compulsory retirement’

These are considered cases of ‘automatic unfair dismissal’. In other words, no ifs, no buts, firing you strictly because of any of these reasons would see an employment tribunal decide in your favour.

Unfair dismissal is different to constructive dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

Constructive dismissal occurs where you feel you’ve been forced to quit your job due to your employer’s actions (or inaction) – for example, because they refuse to pay you, demote you for no reason, or allow colleagues to bully you in the workplace.

Wrongful dismissal generally happens when your employer fails to give you an adequate notice period or won’t give you your notice pay.

Whatever your situation, employment solicitors will be able to explore your specific circumstances, advising of other reasons why you may have an unfair dismissal case.

What doesn’t count as unfair dismissal?

Your employer can fairly dismiss you if:

You can’t do your job – whether it’s poor performance or interpersonal problems with colleagues

A persistent and long-term illness prevents you doing your job – your employer should first try to support your return and allow a reasonable recovery time

Your job no longer exists – redundancy is considered fair, although you may still be able to make a redundancy claim

Your workplace conduct is bad – your employer must investigate any accusation of gross misconduct

You face ‘statutory restrictions’ – for example, you’re a driver who’s lost their licence or a teacher no longer permitted to work with children

You refuse reasonable job alternatives during reorganisation – if a company undergoes restructuring and you don’t accept changes to your contract

Who can make an unfair dismissal claim?

Not every employee can make a claim for unfair dismissal. There are two criteria that you’ll need to meet:
  • You must be a fully contracted employee
  • You must have worked for the company for at least two years

So, for instance, if you’re self-employed, an independent contractor, or still on probation, you won’t be eligible to make a claim. And that’s just the start.

Check the government’s eligibility guidelines to see if you qualify.
If you fit the criteria, it’s time to consider how best to react to your dismissal.

How do you claim unfair dismissal?

Almost all workplace disputes – from disciplinaries to redundancies – follow the same basic process. Long before you lodge a claim with an employment tribunal, you should complete these steps.
  • Step one
Talk to your employer. See if you can resolve the matter between you both before your notice period is up. You may be able to get your job back, or leave on amicable terms with a good reference.
  • Step two
Formally complain to HR. In most cases, your employer must legally investigate your complaint to see if you’ve been unfairly dismissed.
  • Step three
Appeal the dismissal decision. After your dismissal has been conveyed, you should have the right to appeal – and your employer will explain how to do this.
  • Step four
Speak to a legal representative. Should your appeal fail, it’s probably best to talk to an employment solicitor as you may need to consider legal action.
  • Step five
Inform ACAS. Before you can take your claim to an employment tribunal, you need to let ACAS know your intentions.
  • Step six
Attend ‘early conciliation’. After informing ACAS, the service will offer early conciliation, a form of mediation with an independent third-party. If you both resolve the matter, you and your employer will receive a legally binding agreement. If not, you’ll get the go ahead to take legal action.
  • Step seven
Lodge a claim with an employment tribunal. Your solicitor will guide you through what can often be a stressful and time-consuming process.

You only have three months minus one day from the date of your dismissal to lodge a claim.

During the tribunal, your employer must be able to prove that:
  • They had a good or fair reason to dismiss you
  • You haven’t been discriminated against
  • The dismissal procedure was properly followed
  • You were already aware of the process and company guidelines

What is the pay-out for unfair dismissal?

If a tribunal concludes you’ve been unfairly dismissed, you’ll receive a basic award plus a compensation award, which accounts for loss of statutory rights, earnings, and pension.

Any basic award pay-out will be a fixed amount and depends on your age, length of service, and gross weekly pay. Length of service is capped at 20 years, while weekly pay is capped at £525. Your basic award can also be reduced if the tribunal finds your conduct is at fault, you’ve turned down an offer of re-employment, or received redundancy pay.

To work out your basic award, use the government’s statutory redundancy pay calculator, as it’s calculated the same way.

How do you find an employment solicitor?

When facing unfair dismissal, an employment solicitor is well-placed to advise on how to make and win a claim with a tribunal.

The Law Superstore helps you compared and connect with solicitors locally and across England and Wales. Fill in a few details using our quick quote form to find employment solicitors who understand what you’re going through.