The Employment Law Blog

Common employment law misconceptions: Unfair dismissal

“I have worked for my employer for one year but today my boss came in to my office and told me that as the company had lost a big contract, they could no longer afford to employ me. I was told that I could go home immediately and that the company would give me one weeks’ pay. I was not given anything in writing and I feel that this is really unfair. Can I do anything about it?”

Unfortunately, whilst the above scenario does seem unfair, it is not necessarily unlawful. Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees only accrue the right not to be unfairly dismissed after two complete years’ service. Prior to accruing two years’ service, employees can be dismissed for any reason and without a reasonable process and it is still likely to be fair unless the reason is discriminatory or comes within a specific list of reasons which could give rise to a claim for automatically unfair dismissal. Those grounds include, having raised a health and safety concern, having blown the whistle about wrongdoings within the company, having gone on jury service, asserting a statutory right or trying to exercise a right to take family related leave.

If an employee is dismissed within that two year period, their employer is required to give them their normal pay and benefits up to the termination date including, if they have accrued holiday that they have not taken, a payment in lieu of that holiday. Unfortunately, where the individual’s length of service is less than two years there is also no right to written reasons for dismissal although in practice some employers will provide this as standard.

If you are dismissed within the first two years of employment, it may still be worth you taking advice if you believe that you have been discriminated against or automatically unfairly dismissed. You do still have rights in respect of your statutory and common law entitlements and should ensure that you are properly paid by your employer. However, the concept of an unfair dismissal does have a specific statutory meaning in law and whilst it seems unfair in common language, it is often not unlawful.

Please note this article should only be considered as guidance and should not be taken as specific legal advice. For further advice on this topic contact Kelly Gibson at Taylor&Emmet LLP at Kelly.Gibson@tayloremmet.co.uk and 0114 218 4307.

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