Unfair dismissal

If a worker with two year’s service is sacked by an employer without either a fair procedure or justifiable reason, the employer contravenes the Employment Rights Act 1996. The employer’s action constitutes unfair dismissal.

Of course, some reasons for dismissal are fair. If an employee is shown not to have the skills or qualifications to do the job, or has seriously breached reasonable policies around conduct, then dismissal is potentially lawful. There are other valid reasons.

Yet, some reasons are automatically unfair. An employer cannot sack a worker because he or she is using employment rights to obtain, for instance, time off for maternity or paternity.

Even if an employer has a good reason for dismissal, there needs to be a proper procedure in order to lawfully sack the employee.

An Employment Tribunal makes a judgment about a dismissal by examining whether a fair procedure was followed.

Constructive dismissal can also constitute unfair dismissal. If an employer seriously breaches the employment contract in order to force an employee to leave, then this amounts to constructive dismissal. In such a case, an employee should be able to show that he or she did not accept the breach and genuinely felt they were forced to leave.

Examples of a serious breach leading to constructive dismissal include: not paying the employee properly, demoting the employee or bullying.

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