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Dismissal

Steps to work through to identify an unfair dismissal

A dismissal may be fair or unfair depending on the circumstances of the dismissal.

You need to work through the following steps to identify whether you can make a claim for unfair dismissal:-

When making a claim to an employment tribunal, the claim for unfair dismissal must always be made within a very strict time limit - see under heading How to make a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal.

In all cases, if you make a claim of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal and you win your claim, the employment tribunal can award you compensation for the unfair dismissal from your employer and/or tell your employer to give you your job back. It is very rare, however, for tribunals to tell employers to give an employee their job back. It is much more usual for the tribunal to award compensation to the employee.

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Step one: who cannot claim unfair dismissal

There are some employees who can never claim unfair dismissal. They are:-

  • people who are not employees, such as independent contractors or freelance agents. Employers often claim that people who are actually employees are self-employed. It is important to check the relationship between the employee and their ‘employer’, because this will determine the employee’s actual employment status

For more details, see under heading Are you an employee or self-employed in Contracts of employment.

  • police officers
  • members of the armed forces
  • share fishermen
  • people who work outside Great Britain
  • registered dock workers.

Generally, to claim unfair dismissal, you have to have worked for your employer for at least one year if you started working for your employer before 6 April 2012 or two years if you started on or after 6 April 2012. However, there are special rules for people who have worked for their employer for less than the required amount of time.See under headings Automatically unfair dismissal, and Step 3: have you been discriminated against.

Unfair dismissal and retirement

It used to be the case that if you were forced to retire because you reached 65, you couldn't claim unfair dismissal or age discrimination.

This has changed, and your employer cannot force you to retire just because you have reached a particular age, unless they can justify it. If they can't justify it, you may have a claim for age discrimination and a claim for unfair dismissal.

If you turned 65 before 1 October 2011, and your employer told you that you before 6 April 2011 that you'll have to retire, then as long as they have followed a correct procedure, this will not be unfair dismissal or age discrimination.

For more information about age discrimination and unfair dismissal, see  Age discrimination at work.

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Step two: have you actually been dismissed

What counts as dismissal

You are dismissed when your employer brings the contract of employment to an end.

All the following count as dismissal:-

  • your employer ends your employment with or without notice
  • your employer does not renew a fixed term contract that has run out
  • you are made redundant, including if you take voluntary redundancy
  • your employer refuses to take you back after a strike or lockout
  • constructive dismissal. This is when your employer makes it impossible for you to carry on working so you resign (see below)
  • you resign under pressure from your employer (see below)
  • if you are a woman on maternity leave, and your employer refuses to allow you to return to work after maternity leave
  • self dismissal. An employer may argue that you have dismissed yourself by behaving in a way that brings the contract to an end. However, unless it is obvious that you have actually resigned, you will have been dismissed by your employer
  • you have been laid off or put on short time working when your contract does not allow for this.

If you are an employee who wants to claim redundancy after a lay off or period of short time working, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

What does not count as dismissal

If you are in any doubt at all as to whether you have been unfairly dismissed, you must seek advice from an experienced adviser as soon as possible, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because any claim for unfair dismissal must be made to an employment tribunal three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

The following will not count as dismissal:-

  • you resign without any pressure from your employer or leave by mutual agreement (but see below)
  • you are suspended on full pay
  • your employer withdraws a job offer before you start work (see below)
  • circumstances change and you can no longer continue to work for your employer. This is known as frustration of contract (see below)
  • you are laid off or put on short-time working and your contract allows for this, and then you claim redundancy. You are then actually resigning

If you are an employee in this situation you should consult immediately an experienced advisor, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

  • you receive an ambiguous dismissal from your employer and it is not clear if the employer is dismissing you or not. For example, your employer shouts at you to 'get out of here' during an argument.

What does not count as dismissal - resignation

It is important to remember that what is called a ‘resignation’ may really be a dismissal. Whether the employee has resigned or they have been dismissed depends on who really terminated the employment contract.

Normally, if you resign, you bring the employment contract to end and so you have not been dismissed. However, there are circumstances where, although you have resigned, you will still be treated as being dismissed. This could be:-

  • if you resigned under pressure from your employer

If you have been forced under pressure to resign, you should consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

  • if no notice has been given but it is clear that dismissal is imminent, for example, your work is being given to other people. This could be constructive dismissal (see below)
  • if you resigned in the heat of the moment, for example, during an argument, and your employer will not subsequently agree to let you retract your resignation, or if you gave an ambiguous statement which your employer has taken to mean a resignation, and will not allow you to retract it.

If you are in any of these situations you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

What does not count as dismissal - suspension on full pay

If you are suspended, for example, to await the outcome of a disciplinary hearing, your contract of employment will continue to run until either you resign or are dismissed.

If you are in this situation you should consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

What does not count as dismissal - withdrawal of a job offer

Where an employer has made an offer of a job to you, but subsequently changes their mind, you may be able to claim compensation if the job offer was unconditional. You may be able to claim compensation for giving up your old job.

If the job offer was conditional, for example, it was made subject to references or medical examination, and these were unsatisfactory, you will not be able to claim compensation.

What does not count as dismissal - frustration of contract

Frustration of contract happens when an employee cannot fulfil their contractual obligations because of an unforeseen change of circumstances. If a contract has been frustrated, this means that it no longer exists and neither the employer nor the employee has any obligations under it. There is therefore no dismissal.

The two most common ways in which a contract may be frustrated are long-term sickness or injury of the employee, and imprisonment of the employee.

It is common for employers to claim that the employment contract has been frustrated when they are actually dismissing an employee unfairly. If your employer is trying to claim the contract has been frustrated, you must consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Constructive dismissal

Constructive dismissal occurs if you resign because your employer breaches the employment contract, by taking action such as cutting your pay, changing your working conditions, and so on, and so makes it impossible for you to continue working.

Is very difficult to make a claim for constructive dismissal, and if you think it is impossible for you to carry on working you should seek help from an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because there is a time limit from the date of dismissal within which you must make a claim.

For more information in England, Wales and Scotland about your rights when your employer makes changes to your employment contract, see Changes to employment contracts in Employment fact sheets.

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Step three: have you been discriminated against

You may believe that you have been dismissed because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. You can make a claim for discrimination to an employment tribunal instead of, or in addition to, a claim for unfair dismissal. You do not have to have worked for any particular length of time to be able to claim discrimination.

If you have been dismissed for a discriminatory reason, you may also have been unfairly dismissed as well.  However, in order to claim unfair dismissal, you will need to have worked for your employer for at least a year if you started working for your employer before 6 April 2012 or at least two years if you started on or after 6 April 2012.

If you have worked for your employer for at least a year if you started working for your employer before 6 April 2012 or at least two years if you started on or after 6 April 2012, and want to make a claim for unfair dismissal as well as discrimination, you will have to show in your claim both that you were discriminated against and that your dismissal was unfair.

If you want to make a claim to an employment tribunal for dismissal and discrimination it is a good idea to get advice from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. The adviser will be able to help you with how to put your claim, and the time limits you have to do this in. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

For more information about race discrimination, see Taking action about race discrimination.
For more information about sex discrimination, see Taking action about sex discrimination.
For more information about discrimination because you're disabled, see Disability discrimination.
For more information about discrimination because of sexual orientation, see Discrimination because of sexual orientation.
For more information about age discrimination, see Age discrimination at work.
For more information about discrimination because of your religion, see Discrimination because of religion or belief.

In England, Wales and Scotland, see also What can I do if my employer treats me unfairly because of my religion or belief? and What can I do if my employer treats me unfairly because of my sexual orientation? in Employment fact sheets.

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Step four: what is the reason for the dismissal and is it one which means the dismissal is automatically unfair

The reason for the dismissal decides what action you can take. The reason your employer has given you may not be the real reason for the dismissal.

In most circumstances, if your employer wants to dismiss you, they should follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures - see under heading Procedure your employer must follow when dismissing or disciplining you.

Automatically unfair dismissal, where it does not matter how long you have worked for the employer

If the reason for the dismissal is any of those listed below, an employment tribunal will automatically decide that the dismissal was unfair. If you were dismissed for one of the following reasons you can still claim unfair dismissal regardless of how long you have worked for the employer:

  • pregnancy. If you are dismissed because you are pregnant or on maternity leave or a related reason

For more information, see Parental rights at work

  • if you are dismissed for trying to enforce a right you have under law, you will automatically be treated as having been unfairly dismissed

For more information about statutory employment rights, see Basic rights at work

  • if you are dismissed for taking action over a health and safety issue

If you think you may be dismissed if you report a danger to health and safety at the workplace, or if you think you have been dismissed for a health and safety reason, you should consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

  • if you work in a shop or a betting shop and you are dismissed for refusing to work on a Sunday
  • if you are a trustee of an occupational pension fund
  • if you are a trade union member or have taken part in trade union activities including official industrial action, or have acted as an employees’ representative
  • if you have ‘blown the whistle’ on a matter of public concern at work

If you have been dismissed for one of the above reasons and want to take a claim to an employment tribunal (industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland), you should seek the help of an experienced adviser as soon as possible, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because a claim to a tribunal must be made three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

Automatically unfair dismissal, where you must have worked for your employer for a certain length of time

If you have not been dismissed for one of the reasons listed above but have been dismissed for one of the following reasons, and have worked for your employer for at least a year if you started working for your employer before 6 April 2012 or at least two years if you started on or after 6 April 2012, an employment tribunal will find that you have automatically been unfairly dismissed:-

  • transfer of the employer’s business. If the dismissal is as a result of the business you work for having been taken over by a new owner, the dismissal will be automatically unfair and you can make a claim provided you have worked there for long enough
  • not declaring a spent conviction.

If you think that the reason for your dismissal may be one of the above, you should immediately consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because a claim to an employment tribunal must be made three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

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If you have been dismissed because of your political views or political connections

If you are dismissed because of your political views or your political connections, you can claim unfair dismissal no matter how long you have worked for your employer. However, if you have been dismissed for this reason, this will not be an automatically unfair dismissal. If your employer can show it was reasonable to dismiss you in the circumstances, and your employer went through a proper procedure before they dismissed you, your dismissal is likely to be fair.

More about procedures your employer should follow when dismissing or disciplining you

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Step five: is the reason for the dismissal one which is not automatically unfair

If you have not been dismissed for one of the reasons above (see under heading Step four: What is the reason for the dismissal and is it one which means the dismissal is automatically unfair), then the dismissal may have been fair or unfair depending on the reason for it and the procedures followed by your employer in dismissing you. If the reason for the dismissal was not one of those above (see under heading Step four: What is the reason for the dismissal and is it one which means the dismissal is automatically unfair), you will have to have worked for your employer for one year if you started before 6 April 2012 or two years if you started on or after 6 April 2012 in order to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Reasons for claiming unfair dismissal where you will have to have worked for long enough to be able to claim are:-

  • your employer says you are not capable of doing the job (see below)
  • your employer says you do not have the necessary qualifications to do the job (see below)
  • your employer says your conduct has been poor (see below)
  • your employer says you have done something illegal (see below)
  • your employer says you are redundant (see below)
  • some other reason your employer has given for dismissing you.

It is important to remember that there is a strict time limit, starting from the date the employee is dismissed, during which they must make a claim to an employment tribunal (see under heading What to consider if making a claim for unfair dismissal). If you are an employee in any of the above situations and wish to claim unfair dismissal you should consult immediately an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Your employer says you are incapable of doing the work, including illness

This may relate to the level of skill needed to do the particular job or to the fact that you have been ill and so your employer thinks you are not capable of doing the work.

Some employees who are ill may be protected by the Equality Act.

If you have been dismissed for a capability reason, you should seek advice from an experienced adviser as soon as possible, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because any claim to an employment tribunal needs to be made three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

Your employer says you do not have the necessary qualifications to do the job

You may be dismissed because you are not qualified, or are no longer qualified, to do your job. For example, if your job involves a lot of driving and you have lost your driving licence. Whether this will be a fair reason to dismiss you will depend on, in this case, how much driving the job involved, whether anyone else could have done the driving, how long you had lost your licence for, and so on. The employment tribunal would decide whether the dismissal was fair or unfair, taking into account all the circumstances of the case.

If you have been dismissed for a reason to do with lack of qualifications, you should seek advice from an experienced adviser as soon as possible, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because any claim to an employment tribunal needs to be made three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

Your employer says your conduct is poor, including gross misconduct

Certain types of behaviour by an employee are thought to be unacceptable and if the employee has behaved in this way, any dismissal as a result will probably be fair. Some forms of unacceptable behaviour are known as gross misconduct and include theft at work, violence at work, harassment (such as sexual or racial harassment) of other employees or customers, and breach of health and safety rules.

Others types of behaviour which have been found to be misconduct include the following list. Whether the dismissal which results from such behaviour is fair or not will depend on the circumstances of the case and the employment tribunal would decide this taking into account all the circumstances of the case:-

  • time-keeping and absenteeism
  • refusal to obey a reasonable instruction from the employer, for example, refusing to wear particular clothing at work where the clothing is needed for health and safety reasons
  • insolence or rudeness, including use of bad language. Things said in the heat of the moment would not usually justify a dismissal
  • carelessness. If an employer has previously accepted poor standards from an employee without any warning, then dismissing them for another example of carelessness is likely to be an unfair dismissal
  • criminal activity at work
  • fighting or violence at work. An employment tribunal would look at all the circumstances of the case, such as whether the employee was acting in self defence, whether they were provoked, how previous incidents of fighting have been dealt with by the employers
  • drinking or using/taking drugs during working hours (including possessing drugs or drink at work) and sometimes out of work, is usually treated as gross misconduct but will depend on the circumstances of each case. For example, if the employee works in a workplace where everyone goes for a drink on Friday lunchtime and all come back for work late, it would be unfair for the employer to pick on any one employee to take action against.

If you have been dismissed for a reason to do with misconduct, you should seek advice from an experienced adviser as soon as possible, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because any claim to an employment tribunal needs to be made three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

Your employer says you have been made redundant

Employers often claim that an employee is redundant when this is not true, and the employee has actually been unfairly dismissed. The law on whether the redundancy is genuine or not is very complex, and in order for a redundancy to be a fair reason for dismissal, an employer would need to show to an employment tribunal that:

  • it was a genuine redundancy; and
  • the employer consulted properly with all the affected employees. There are legal rules under law about how such consultation must be carried out; and
  • the employee was fairly chosen for redundancy out of all the other employees; and
  • the employer has offered any suitable alternative employment which was available to the employee.

If you have been dismissed for a reason to do with redundancy, you should seek advice from an experienced adviser as soon as possible, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because any claim to a tribunal needs to be made three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

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Procedures your employer should follow when dismissing or disciplining you

The procedure your employer must follow when they dismiss you depends on the date of your dismissal.

The information in this section applies only to employees whose employer started taking disciplinary or dismissal action against them on or after 6 April 2009.

If your employer started taking disciplinary or dismissal action against you before this date, different rules apply and you should get advice from an experienced adviser. It's very important to do this straight away, as if you have been dismissed, it may mean your dismissal is automatically unfair and it will make a difference to the time limits within which you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

You can get advice at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB. This is because any claim to a tribunal usually needs to be made three months less one day from the date of the dismissal.

If your employer takes disciplinary action or dismisses you from 6 April 2009 onwards, they should follow the procedures which are laid out in the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. They don't have to follow these procedures. However, if you decide to take your employer to an employment tribunal and you win your case, your employer could be ordered to pay you more compensation if they don't have a good reason for not following the Code.

If your employer follows the Code of Practice, their disciplinary and dismissal procedures will include the following steps:

Sending a letter

If your employer is considering disciplinary action or dismissal, their first step should be to write to you setting out the problem.

Arranging a meeting

Once your employer has contacted you in writing, they should also arrange a meeting at a reasonable time and place to discuss the problem. You have a legal right to ask someone to accompany you to the meeting - either a colleague from work or a trade union representative.

Telling you their decision

After the meeting, your employer should send you their decision about what they plan to do in writing. They should do this within a reasonable amount of time.

Appealing

If you don't agree with your employer’s decision, your employer should give you the opportunity to appeal against it.

You don't have to appeal, but if you later decide to go to an employment tribunal and you win your case, the tribunal may reduce any compensation awarded to you as a result of your failure to appeal.

Your employer should arrange a further meeting to discuss your appeal.

After the appeal meeting, your employer should write to you and tell you their final decision.

If you're still not happy with your employer’s decision, you may want to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Remember that, in most cases, you must make an application to an employment tribunal three months less one day from the date of the dismissal. If your application is received after this time limit, the tribunal will not usually accept it. However, from 6 April, the early conciliation process applies to most employment tribunal cases and will extend the original time limit. From 6 May, you must contact Acas to start the early conciliation process Acas before you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

If they are dismissing you, in most cases your employer must give you a period of notice first. The law says most people should have a minimum period of notice. This will depend on how long you've worked for your employer.

Even if you don't have a legal right to a minimum period of notice, you will still be entitled to reasonable notice. This will often depend on how often you are paid, for example, weekly or monthly.

For more information about the procedures your employer should follow when they dismiss you, see Sorting out problems at work.

For more information about how much notice you're entitled to when you're dismissed from work, see Basic rights at work.

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Working out if you have worked for long enough to be able to claim unfair dismissal

To claim unfair dismissal, you must usually have worked for your employer for at least a year if you started before 6 April 2012 or two years if you started on or after 6 April 2012, unless the reason for your dismissal is one which is automatically unfair. For more information on reasons for dismissal which are automatically unfair, see under heading Step four: what is the reason for the dismissal.

The length of time you have been working for your employer is calculated in months and years, starting from the day you began to work for your employer, and ending on the date your employment comes to an end. For unfair dismissal purposes, only employment from the date of your sixteenth birthday counts towards length of service.

The date your employment comes to an end is:-

  • the last day you actually work if either you or your employer gives the correct notice and you work out your notice. See below if correct notice was not given
  • the last day you actually work if your employer has made a payment in lieu of notice which is correct. See below if the correct notice/pay in lieu of notice was not given
  • where a fixed-term contract runs out and is not renewed, the date the contract runs out.

If you are not sure if you have worked for your employer for long enough to be able to claim unfair dismissal, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you were not given the right notice

If you were dismissed without being given the notice you are legally entitled to, your length of service is calculated by adding on the legal notice you should have been given, when you are working out how long you have worked for your employer.

But when you are working out time limits for a tribunal claim, your employment is treated as ending on the day you were dismissed.

For example, you are entitled to two weeks' legal minimum notice, and your employer has dismissed you without notice on 2 June. Your employment is still treated as ending on 2 June, when you are working out time limits for a tribunal claim. However, when working out your length of employment, it is calculated as if your employment had ended on 16 June.

The required legal minimum notice is:-

  • one week if you have been employed for at least one month but less than two years
  • two weeks if you have been employed for two years
  • three weeks for three years, and so on up to twelve weeks. After twelve years service, the statutory notice period is twelve weeks.

For more information about your rights to notice when you are dismissed from work, see Notice of dismissal from work in Employment fact sheets.

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What to consider if making a claim for unfair dismissal

If you are thinking about making a claim for unfair dismissal, you should consider the following points.

Level of compensation

Compensation is normally made up of a basic award and a compensatory award.

How much is the basic award

For the basic award the tribunal gives:-

  • 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 each year of service over the age of 41.

The maximum number of years which can be compensated is 20. The maximum amount of weekly gross pay which can be taken into account is £464. Any money earned above this sum is disregarded. The maximum basic award is £13,920 (£464 x 1.5 x 20), for a termination date on or after 6 April 2014.

How much is the compensatory award

The compensatory award is made to compensate for loss of earnings. This can include net pay, fringe benefits, overtime and bonuses. It can also include loss of pension rights and loss of statutory rights. The amount of any Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support the employee has received since the dismissal will be deducted from the award. The maximum compensatory award for loss suffered following a dismissal is £74,200, for date of termination on or after 1 February 2013.

If you need further advice on the amount of any award you are likely to receive, and if you wish to make a claim to a tribunal, you must see an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. This is because there is a strict time limit during which you must make a claim to a tribunal.

Can the employment tribunal order that you get your job back

Unless you think that your employer may be prepared to negotiate, making a successful claim to an employment tribunal is probably the only way you can get your job back. However, very few tribunals order re-employment.

If you want to claim re-employment, you must consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. This is because a claim to an employment tribunal must be made three months less one day from the date of dismissal. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

ACAS Arbitration Scheme

The ACAS Arbitration Scheme is designed for straightforward unfair dismissal cases. ACAS claims that their scheme is quicker and more informal than a tribunal hearing, but, in opting for the scheme, you waive your right to go to an employment tribunal. There is also no right of appeal.

If you are considering using this scheme, you should consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. This is because a claim to an employment tribunal must be made three months less one day from the date of dismissal. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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How to make a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal

The three-month time limit

An employee who believes that they were unfairly dismissed must make a complaint to an employment tribunal three months minus one day of the date of dismissal.

For more information about making a claim to an employment tribunal when you have been dismissed, see Sorting out problems at work.

The date of the dismissal for calculating the three-month time limit will be:-

  • if you were given statutory or contractual notice, the date of dismissal is the date when the notice period ends
  • if you were dismissed without statutory or contractual notice, the date of dismissal is the date you were dismissed (not the date your notice would have run out had you been given it)
  • if you are given pay in lieu of notice instead of being allowed to work your notice, the date of dismissal is the last day you work
  • if you have a fixed-term contract and the contract runs out, the date of dismissal is the date the fixed term runs out.

If you are unsure about which is the actual date of dismissal, the last day of work should be treated as the start of the three-month time limit.

From 6 April, the early conciliation process applies to most employment tribunal claims and will affect the time limit for your claim. From 6 May, you must contact Acas to start the early conciliation process before you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

For more information about early conciliation and how it affects the time limit, see Early conciliation - how it works and Early conciliation - how it affects the time limit for making a claim.

If you wish to make a claim, you must consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. This is because a claim to an employment tribunal must be made within three months of the date of dismissal. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

For more information about your rights to notice when you are dismissed from work, see Notice of dismissal from work in Employment fact sheets.

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What is wrongful dismissal

If your employer does not give you the rights you are entitled to under your contract of employment, for example, your employer does not give you the correct notice of dismissal that you are entitled to under your contract, this is known as a breach of contract.

Your employer may pay you an amount of money as compensation instead of giving you notice of dismissal or allowing you to work out your notice. This is called pay in lieu of notice. If there is a term in your contract which allows your employer to pay you pay in lieu of notice instead of giving you notice, then provided you are paid the correct amount of pay in lieu, there will be no breach of contract.

If your employer does not give you the correct notice and does not pay you pay in lieu instead, or does not pay the right amount of pay in lieu of notice, you may be able to claim compensation for the breach of the contract by making a claim for wrongful dismissal. You can make a claim for breach of contract to the employment tribunal at the same time as making a claim for unfair dismissal. Compensation for breach of contract will be in addition to any compensation you can also claim for unfair dismissal. Your employer should follow a proper dismissal procedure before dismissing you. Otherwise, the dismissal may be automatically unfair.

For more information about the procedures your employer should follow when they dismiss you, see Sorting out problems at work.

You can claim compensation for breach of contract for other things, such as if your employer takes back your company car when it is a term of the contract that you have a company car for all the time that you are an employee (including your notice period).

If you are thinking about making a claim for unfair and/or wrongful dismissal, you should consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. This is because a claim to an employment tribunal must be made within three months of the date of dismissal. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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