Unfair dismissal is a statutory right that is set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Only ‘employees’ are entitled to claim unfair dismissal. ‘Workers’ and the genuinely self-employed are excluded. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Full and part-time employees can claim, and there are no lower or upper age limits.
There are two main types of unfair dismissal:
In some circumstances dismissal will be a response to an employee asserting their employment rights. Where a right to automatic unfair dismissal exists an employer cannot argue that their behaviour was reasonable and so the unfair dismissal will be 'automatically' proved.
In most automatic dismissal claims there is no minimum service period.
In other cases employees must usually have a minimum period of continuous employment with the employer who has dismissed them.
Both automatic and 'ordinary' unfair dismissal claims can be made at the same time if the employee meets the criteria for both claims.
There may be a separate claim for discrimination if the reason for the dismissal is discrimination by the employer, commonly age, pregnancy, maternity and disability can be reasons for dismissal that raise discrimination issues but other protections apply as well.
All claims for unfair dismissal must be made to an Employment Tribunal within 3 months of the date the contract of employment ended.
In exceptional circumstances a tribunal can extend its jurisdiction and allow a late claim.
If an employee succeeds in a claim for unfair dismissal there are three outcomes (usually called remedies) that the employment tribunal can award:
The main remedy is compensation as it is usually difficult to repair the relationship between the employer and the employee and make reinstatement or re-engagement a practical option.