Can you be dismissed from work for no reason?
In short, yes. This, of course, depends on a number of different factors and circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
We are often asked this question by a number of individuals and clients we work with, usually in the case an employee has been dismissed by their employer for no clear or fair reason, one that does not appear serious enough to warrant dismissal, where a warning may see more appropriate, or where 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:
- an employee, and
- have two years of continuous service with your employer.
Less than two years of service?
If the employee has less than two years of service, due to not having the legal protection from being unfairly dismissed, an employer can legally dismiss them without following any process or giving a specific reason. Although this may not perhaps be the best practice, there is no recourse in the employment tribunal if an employer does not follow a process. This can be incredibly frustrating for employees, particularly as two years is a reasonably long amount of time working for a company.
However, companies do have to exercise caution as there are a few 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, employees 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 well beyond the scope of this blog, however, you will see that it is crucially important to examine the background of the case and determine the real reason for the dismissal as there may be another claim to pursue.
More than two years of service?
After two years’ service, in addition to the rights listed above, the right not to be unfairly dismissed is attained, this means that employers must follow a fair dismissal procedure, which includes providing a written reason for dismissal, which can contain the following::
- 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 or not you have a potential claim to pursue.
Is there a deadline to bring an unfair dismissal tribunal claim?
You must act as fast as you can if you wish to pursue a tribunal claim, a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal must be lodged within 3 months less than 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 or not you may have a potential claim, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our experienced Employment Lawyers on 01202 525333 for further advice and guidance.
How can we help?
When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.