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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Being dismissed by your employer

There are various reasons why your employer might dismiss you. If your employer is dismissing you from work or ending your contract of employment then you have certain rights to make sure the dismissal is fair.

What is dismissal?

Dismissal is when your employer ends your employment. This could happen in several ways, including if your:

  • employer tells you they are ending your employment, with or without notice
  • employer constructively dismisses you by breaching your employment contract so badly that you are forced to leave
  • fixed-term contract is not renewed

Your employer’s responsibilities

If your employer has dismissed you, they must show they have:

  • a valid reason that they can justify (eg if you have not been able to do your job)
  • acted reasonably in the circumstances (eg if there was no training or support to help)

Your employer needs to have investigated fully before dismissing you. If your employer acted fairly but came to the wrong conclusion, (eg if they have got the facts wrong) this will not necessarily mean your dismissal is unfair.

Your employer must be able to show that they have been consistent and have not sacked you for doing something that they normally let other employees do. You may be able to claim unfair dismissal if you can show that you weren't told about a relevant company rule or policy by your employer.

Unfair dismissal

An unfair dismissal is where your employer sacks you (or forces you to leave) without good reason or fails to follow fair dismissal procedures.

A dismissal could be automatically unfair if you are dismissed because you tried to claim one of your statutory employment rights.

In most cases before you make an unfair dismissal claim you need a qualifying period.

The qualifying period changed on 6 April 2012:

  • for employees starting new employment on or after 6 April 2023 the qualifying period for the right to claim unfair dismissal is two years - the right to request a written reason for dismissal is two years
  • for employees in employment before 6 April 2023 the qualifying period is unchanged at one year - the right to request a written reason for dismissal is unchanged at one year

Wrongful dismissal

Wrongful dismissal is when your employer breaches your contract in dismissing you or forcing you to leave. For example, they could dismiss you without notice or without following their disciplinary and dismissal process.

A dismissal can be both wrongful and unfair.

How much notice must your employer give you?

Your employer must normally give you at least the notice outlined in your contract of employment or the statutory minimum notice period, which ever is longer.

'Summary dismissal' is dismissal without notice and is only allowed for 'gross misconduct'. This is where a situation is serious enough for your employer to dismiss you without warning (eg for violence). Your employer should always investigate the circumstances before making a dismissal, even in possible gross misconduct cases.

Working out the day your employment contract ends

If your employer gives you notice that you are going to be dismissed then the day your employment contract ends will be the last day of your notice. If you work past your notice date then your end date will still be the last date of the notice that was given to you.

If your contract was terminated without notice by your employer and you were not entitled to receive notice (eg if you are dismissed for gross misconduct) your end date is the day you were dismissed.

If your employer gives you a shorter notice period than the length you are entitled to, your employment contract will end on the date it would have ended if you had been given the correct notice.

If you are a fixed-term worker then your employment contract will end on the pre-agreed date.

If you receive ‘PILON’ or payment in lieu of notice then your end date is normally the last day you worked for your employer. Your right to receive PILON should written in your employment contract.

Your right to written reasons for dismissal

It is good practice for an employer to give reasons for dismissal. You are entitled to receive a written statement from your employer giving the reasons why you have been dismissed if you:

  • are an employee and have completed a year’s service with your employer
  • are employed under a fixed-term contract which has expired and is not to be renewed
  • were dismissed while pregnant or on maternity or adoption leave

If you have problems

If you have the right to receive written reasons for dismissal you can complain to an Employment Tribunal if:

  • your employer won't give you the reasons for your dismissal
  • you don't believe the reasons given are the real ones

Before doing this you may want to try using your company's grievance procedure (but you don't have to).

If you think your dismissal was unfair, you could consider claiming unfair dismissal to an Employment Tribunal.

Where to get help

Visit the employment contacts section for more information on where to get further help or advice with employment issues. If you are a member of a trade union you can also get advice and support from them.

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