Can you be dismissed from work for no reason?
In short, yes. This, of course, depends on certain factors and circumstances.
We are often asked this question, usually where an employee has been dismissed by their employer for no clear or fair reason, or a reason that does not appear serious enough to warrant dismissal (or where a warning may seen more appropriate, or another member of staff who was guilty of the same act was not dismissed).
What does the law say about unfair dismissal?
To gain protection from unfair dismissal, you must be (i) an employee, and (ii) have two years of continuous service with your employer.
Less than two years service?
Due to not having the legal protection from being unfairly dismissed, an employer can legally dismiss without following any process or giving a reason. Although this may not perhaps best practice, there is no recourse in the employment tribunal if an employer does not follow a process. This can be frustrating for employees, particularly as two years is a reasonably long time working for a company.
However, companies must exercise caution as there are exceptions. In particular, dismissal may be classed as automatically unfair where 2 years’ service is not required, for reasons such as pregnancy, family leave, National Minimum Wage/Working Time Regulations, or whistleblowing (i.e. due to raising health and safety concerns in the public interest).
In addition, employee’s have other rights from day 1 including:
- Protection from unlawful discrimination i.e. being treated less favourably due to age, disability, gender reassignment,
marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation (these are known as the ‘protected characteristics’ detailed in the Equality Act 2010); and
- The right to pursue a breach of contract claim i.e. if your contractual notice or holiday is not paid.
These other rights are beyond the scope of this blog, however you will see that it is important to examine the background and determine the real reason for the dismissal as there may be another claim to pursue.
More than two years service?
After two years’ service, in addition to the rights listed above, the right not be unfairly dismissed is attained. This means that employers must follow a fair dismissal procedure, which includes providing a written reason for dismissal. This includes:
- Dismissing for a potentially fair reason i.e. conduct, capability, redundancy, illegality or some other substantial reason
(for example, personality clash);
- Act fairly and reasonably in all the circumstances;
- Be consistent i.e. use the same sanction for the same conduct (not provide a warning to one employee but dismiss another in the first instance);
- Comply with either their own disciplinary policy, or follow the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (the Code). Although it is not a legal requirement to follow the Code, a tribunal may adjust unfair dismissal compensation awards by up to 25% for failure to comply with the Code i.e. if the employer does not offer the employee the right to be accompanied at meetings (may increase award), or if an employee does not exercise their right to appeal a decision to dismiss (may reduce award).
If you have over two years’ service, you have a wealth of employment rights, and therefore any dismissal needs to be carefully reviewed to see whether you have a potential claim to pursue.
Is there a deadline to bring an unfair dismissal tribunal claim?
You must act fast if you wish to pursue a tribunal claim. A tribunal claim for unfair dismissal must be lodged within 3 months less a day of the effective date of termination (i.e. date of dismissal or last working day after notice). This deadline will be extended using the compulsory ACAS Early Conciliation, however ACAS must be contacted before the original deadline.
If you have any queries or wish to discuss whether you may have a potential claim, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced Employment Lawyers on 01202 525333 for further advice.