Unfair dismissal

Topic Index
What is a dismissal?
Other ways an employment contract may end
Eligibility for unfair dismissal protection
Potentially fair reasons for dismissal
Conduct dismissals
Capability dismisssals
Redundancy dismissals
Breach of statutory restriction dismissals
Some other substantial reason (SOSR) dismissals
Automatically unfair dismissals
Reasonableness and fairness
Remedies for unfair dismissal
Resources: unfair dismissal



  • Employees with two year's qualifying service have legal protections in the event they are unfairly dismissed.
  • Unfair dismissal is a creature of statute law. Unfair dismissal may occur - and commonly does -  even where there is no breach of contract, i.e. the employer has given proper notice.
  • An employer has the right at common law to terminate an employee’s contract by giving proper notice (or a payment in lieu). Failure to give proper notice is a ‘wrongful dismissal’ for which an employee can sue for damages – fairness or otherwise is not an issue.
  • To effect a fair dismissal, the reason for dismissal must firstly come within one of the five potentially fair reasons for dismissal laid down by the Employment Rights Act 1996.
  • The employer must then show that the decision to dismiss was itself reasonable and that the dismissal was carried out in a procedurally fair way. The provisions of the ACAS Code of Practice, expanded upon in the ACAS Guide, are essential reading because an unreasonable failure to comply with the Code (by either employer or employee) will mean that any tribunal award can be increased or reduced by up to 25%.
  • Certain dismissals (e.g. for health and safety reasons) are deemed 'automatically unfair' and employees dismissed for such reasons do not need any qualifying period of service in order to bring a tribunal claim.
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