Unfair Dismissal


What is Unfair Dismissal?

Once an employee has acquired the statutory right not to be unfairly dismissed¹ (except where the dismissal is on certain grounds² the employee has to be employed for over 2 years before he/she acquires this statutory right– see our section on what employment rights have I got?) the dismissal is deemed unfair unless the employer can prove the dismissal was fair by showing that at the time of dismissal he dismissed due to one of the “5 statutory fair reasons” and that he acted “reasonably”.

What are the “5 statutory fair reasons”

  1. capability or qualifications
  2. conduct
  3. redundancy
  4. a statutory requirement (e.g. holding a driving licence)
  5. In addition, if the reason is not listed above, but there was some other substantial reason that justified the dismissal of the employee, then it can still be a fair dismissal. As of 2011 retirement is no longer a lawful reason for dismissal.

What amounts to acting “reasonably”

The law also states that, in taking into account the reason for dismissal, the employer must have acted reasonably. The tribunals and higher courts have emphasised the need for employers to operate fair procedures – a failure to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance Procedures may be considered unreasonable.


¹Certain employee resignations may be constructive dismissals.

²Automatically unfair dismissals do not require the 12 months’ qualifying service.