Unfair Dismissals

Published: 04/05/2016

Having your employment terminated can be highly distressing. In many cases the employer is within their rights to terminate your contract. However there are a number of examples where employees are dismissed unfairly. If you believe you have been the victim of an unfair dismissal – be it for discrimination, whistleblowing or resigning under pressure – you are entitled to make a claim.

What classifies as an unfair dismissal?

You may have a case for unfair dismissal if you: are refused back after a strike are the victim of constructive dismissal (e.g. cutting pay, changing working conditions) resigned under pressure were dismissed because you pregnant/on maternity leave are on maternity leave and refused back once it has come to an end are the victim of discrimination tried to enforce a right you have under the law took action over a health and safety issue are a whistleblower.


In order to make a claim for unfair dismissal you need to have worked for your employer for a certain amount of time.

Started working for employer before 6 April 2012 Minimum 1 year
Started working for employer on or after 6 April 2012 Minimum 2 years

However there are some circumstances where these time limits are not applicable. This includes pregnancy and/or maternity leave, trying to enforce a right, taking action over health and safety, whistleblowing and discrimination.

There are many types of discrimination:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Religion or beliefs
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Political views.

If you believe you have been dismissed due to discrimination then you do not need to have been working for the employer for any specific length of time.

Other reasons

There are others reasons for which you may have been dismissed which are classed as ‘not automatically unfair’. These tend to focus on you, your performance and/your conduct at work. For example your employer claims:

  • You are incapable of doing the job (e.g. you have been ill)
  • You don’t have the necessary qualifications (e.g. you have lost your driving licence)
  • Your conduct has been bad (e.g. gross misconduct)
  • You have done something illegal
  • You are redundant.

Making a claim

If you wish to make a claim for an unfair dismissal, you need to make a complaint to an employment tribunal. There are very strict time limits for unfair dismissal claims; you must submit your claim within 3 months minus one day of the date of dismissal.

However before making a formal complaint to the employment tribunal you must first contact Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to start the early conciliation process. This is a free and confidential process and can help settle the case quicker without having to go to court. You don’t need to go through early conciliation but you cannot present a claim to an employment tribunal before doing so.

Download the Acas Conciliation Explained guide


Basic award

The amount of compensation you could receive depends on your age and the length of employment.

  • Half a week’s gross basic pay for each year of service in which you were below the age of 22
  • One week’s gross basic pay for each completed year of service between the ages of 22-41
  • One and a half weeks’ gross basic pay for year of service over the age of 41.
The maximum number of years which can be compensated is 20 and the maximum amount of weekly gross pay which can be taken into account is £464. This means the maximum basic award is £13,920 (£464 x 1.5 x 20).

Compensatory award

The compensatory award is made to compensate for loss of earnings. This can include:
  • Net pay
  • Fringe benefits
  • Overtime
  • Bonuses
  • Loss of pension rights
  • Loss of statutory rights.

Any Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance received will be deducted from the amount awarded. The maximum compensatory award for loss of earnings is £74,200. This is for dismissals on or after 1st February 2013.

It is unlikely that an employment tribunal will order re-employment.

Content correct at time of publication

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