Grounds for Unfair Dismissal

By Amanda Beattie
25 Apr 2019

A successful unfair dismissal claim can result in a pay-out of over £100,000—including the compensatory and basic award.

This figure doesn’t take into account the costs of representation in court or the loss to your business as a result of dealing with the claim.

There are plenty of hidden costs in tackling a tribunal case, too—it’s an expensive affair.

That’s why it’s important to avoid landing yourself in a situation where you’re facing a claim. As always, methods to help prevention is good business practice.  

And the best way to avoid issues is to educate your business on what constitutes unfair dismissal and how to correctly end a staff member’s employment contract.

What is considered unfair dismissal?

It’s the termination of an employee’s contract without good reason, as a result of discrimination based on a protected characteristic, or in a direct contradiction with current employment law.

Cases differ depending on a country’s legislation. However, when considering grounds for unfair dismissal in the UK, it’s often easier to look at what constitutes fair dismissal, as this can serve as a reference for judgement.

What are the three fair reasons for dismissal?

These are:

  1. Misconduct.
  2. Redundancy.
  3. Other substantial reasons.

That last point seems a little vague—that’s because it’s a “catch all” category covering all other legitimate reasons not covered by any of the other points.

“Other substantial reasons” essentially means a breakdown in the relationship between employer and employee that doesn’t involve any of the previous four reasons.

If you dismiss an employee for any reason outside of the five points, they may have grounds for an unfair dismissal claim.

However, even if you dismiss an employee for a fair reason, you may not be off the hook.

What are the grounds for unfair dismissal?

As previously stated, failure to dismiss an employee for a fair reason can result in a legitimate unfair dismissal claim.

But failure to follow correct procedure, and treat the employee correctly during the dismissal, can also result in a claim.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a legal definition of ‘reasonableness’, but there are some guidelines that an employment tribunal court would consider, these are:

  • Did you genuinely believe the reason for dismissal was fair?
  • Did you carry out proper investigations?
  • Did you follow the relevant procedures for dismissal?
  • Did you inform the employee that you were considering dismissing them and take the time to listen to their view?
  • Did you allow someone to accompany the employee to disciplinary or dismissal hearings?
  • Did you give the employee the chance to appeal the decision?

If you did all of these things, and the reasons for dismissal was legitimately fair, then you have firm ground to stand on.

But if you’re wondering, “What are automatically unfair grounds for dismissal?” While failure to dismiss an employee for a fair reason is the most likely to result in a successful unfair dismissal claim, it’s never that clear cut.  

That’s why it’s vital to follow procedures carefully and ensure you’re always fair when considering dismissing an employee.

Making a claim

“When can you claim unfair dismissal?” It’s the question all employees dread, but it’s important to know exactly when an employee is able to claim for unfair dismissal.

There’s a qualifying period and it’s usually two years of employment.

Not only that, the employee must make their claim within three months of dismissal.

If the dismissal was due to a protected characteristic however, the employee may be able to take you to tribunal for an entirely different reason.

This will negate the time limit the unfair dismissal claim demands.

Facing a potential unfair dismissal scenario?

If you believe an employee is likely to raise an unfair dismissal claim and you’re not sure where to turn—speak to a Croner expert today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Amanda Beattie

Amanda represents corporate clients and large public bodies, including complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims. Amanda also drafts and delivers bespoke training regarding all aspects of employment law, including ‘mock tribunal’ events; in addition she also frequently drafts employment law articles for various publications for Croner and their clients.

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