Unfair dismissal gives people the idea of “fairness” as being something they can expect in their working relationship. However, the term is entirely a legal one, and has very specific, legal meaning.
It is a statutory right, and to qualify you must come within the rules as set in statute. In particular:
1. You must be an employee.
2. You must have been continuously employed for over TWO YEARS.
Until that time, unless your employer falls foul of a different legislation (normally discrimination), your employer can, in fact, behave as unfairly as they like without legal consequences.
If you are:
- pregnant (or on maternity leave);
- in a Trade Union;
- a whistle-blower;
- have asserted a statutory right or
- have spent convictions
and this is the reason for your dismissal, then you may be able to bring a claim without two years employment and should get in touch to find out.
Assuming you come within the law, your employer must follow the ACAS Guide and is bound by the statutory framework. They can only dismiss you for one of 5 reasons
- Statutory Illegality
- Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR)
Redundancy we deal with elsewhere. Statutory illegality covers where it is otherwise illegal for the contract to continue.
Conduct dismissals relate to things you do. Usually this will be set out in your company’s disciplinary policy or rules. Capability covers both your actual ability to do the job and illness. And SOSR will cover a wide-range of other things, often operational.
Your employer must first identify the reason, and they must then follow a fair procedure, which generally means following the ACAS Code. They may have their own disciplinary procedure which may have more details, although they are rarely bound by these as they are usually for guidance rather than obligatory.
Finally, they must decide their outcome within “a range of reasonable responses”. This is another area that employees find difficult to understand. It simply means that there will be a band, or range, of actions an employer could take in the circumstances. One employer may dismiss, and another may decide that a warning will suffice. And both responses can be right and within the law. The fact that a different employer may have acted differently will not be decisive. To succeed you have to show that it is outside the band of responses that ANY employer would have reasonably chosen. Employers are entitled to be “harsh but fair”.
At Bridge, we can help you navigate this legal minefield. We offer a free initial consultation, where we can assess whether you have a potential claim and if so, what it might be for. We can help you to protect your position and get you the outcome that you want.
The sooner you get in touch, the more we can help, so if you are in a situation at work where you are either going through a disciplinary process or you’ve actually been dismissed, get in touch and find out what we can do to help.