Dismissal is something every employee dreads and seeks to avoid if possible. But, what action can you take if your employer dismisses you?
Justification for dismissal
Your employer is not allowed to dismiss you without a valid and justifiable reason, whether you are a full- or part-time employee. They must be consistent in that they must not sack you for something that other employees are allowed to get away with. If a complaint is made against you, your employer must investigate it fully before dismissing you.
Unless you are dismissed immediately, you must be given the notice period stated in your contract of employment. You are legally entitled to a written statement from your employer stating why you were dismissed. If you’re on maternity leave at the time of your dismissal, you will automatically be sent a written statement.
Reasons for fair dismissal
Your employer can dismiss you fairly for the following reasons:
- You can’t do your job properly. This could be because you haven’t kept up to speed with changes to your job, you don’t get on with co-workers, you haven’t attended training courses, etc.
- You are always off sick and therefore can’t do your job properly.
- You are made redundant.
- You’re dismissed for ‘gross misconduct’. This could be for theft of company or customer property, violence, theft of company time, i.e.: persistently leaving early or arriving late.
- A ‘statutory restriction’. This means that you can be dismissed if your continued employment would amount to a breach of the law; for example, if you were a taxi driver and lost your driving licence.
- A ‘substantial reason’. If you refuse to abide by company policy or if you’re sent to prison.
Under certain circumstances, you might be able to appeal against your dismissal.
Your dismissal could be unfair if:
- Your employer does not have a good, fair reason for sacking you; or
- Your employer fails to follow the company’s formal disciplinary process.
Situations that could amount to unfair dismissal include:
- Refusing to give up your working time rights; for example, taking rest breaks.
- Taking time off for jury service.
- Asking for paternity or maternity leave.
- Exposing misdemeanours by colleagues or the company (whistleblowing).
- Joining a Trade Union.
Sometimes, you can be left feeling that you have no alternative but to leave your job because of the way your employer has behaved towards you. This is called ‘constructive dismissal’. To make a claim for constructive dismissal, the reasons for your departure must be serious, for example:
- You were demoted for no reason or your employer did not pay you.
- You were told to work hours that don’t suit you and that you were not contracted for; for example, overnight work when your usual hours are 9am to 5pm.
- Your employer allows your colleagues to bully you.
If you think you have a case for constructive dismissal, it’s important that you leave your job immediately. If you stay, your employer could argue that you accepted the treatment.
What to do if you are threatened with dismissal
The best course of action is to first discuss the matter with your boss, if possible. You may be able to come to an agreement and resolve the issue without the need for third party intervention.
In the UK, it’s possible to get assistance from a third party to try to solve the problem through mediation, conciliation or arbitration. If you’re a member of a Trade Union, you can discuss the matter with your union representative.
If discussion between you and your employer fails to resolve the problem, you can go to an employment tribunal.
In order to qualify for an unfair dismissal tribunal, you must have worked for the employer for a minimum period:
- If you began working for your employer on or after April 6 2012, the qualifying period is 2 years.
- If you began working for your employer before April 6 2012, the qualifying period is 1 year.
If you are dismissed because of your political opinions, you automatically have the right to an employment tribunal.
If you think you’ve been dismissed unfairly, you must make your claim to a tribunal within three months of your dismissal.
If you’ve been dismissed from your job and you feel that your dismissal was unfair or unjustified, always seek advice from an experienced third party, and do not be afraid to challenge your employer about their decision. It may be possible to resolve any problems through open and frank discussion with your boss without the need to resort to a stressful tribunal.