Unfair dismissal

Preventing and defending employers against claims for unfair dismissal is a core aspect of our expertise and service.  Because we act for employees as well, we know where employers make mistakes and how to lay traps and pitfalls.

It also means were are expert at helping employers avoid those traps and pitfalls.

A well thought out strategy, with well drafted documents and correspondence recording the communications and thought process leading to dismissal can save a fortune.

‘Ordinary’ unfair dismissal awards are capped at £95,211 (a total of year’s basic salary up to £80,541 plus an ‘basic award’ based on age and length of service of up to £14,670), However, if the reason for dismissal is connected to health and safety, or unlawful discrimination or whistleblowing, there is no cap to compensation that can be ordered,

The 2-year rule
It is well known than an employee generally needs at least 2 years’ service to qualify for the right not to be unfairly dismissed.  So if you dismiss an employee with less than 2 years’ service, the only payments that normally need to be considered are wages, holidays owing, and payment in lieu of any notice entitlement under the contract.  The fairness of the process and decision to dismissal is not relevant.

Exceptions to the 2-year rule
There are exceptions, however, where no minimum length of service is required.  If the reason for dismissal is a prohibited reason, then dismissal will be automatically unfair.  These include reasons connected to

• pregnancy or childbirth
• exercising various time off rights (such as for paternity or maternity leave or statutory holiday leave)
• health and safety activities
• whistleblowing
• asserting a statutory right

…..something to hang their hat on

If a dismissal is found to be tainted by discrimination it almost certainly going to unfair as well.  Employers need to be aware than a well-advised employee, regardless of length of service, may well seek to focus on allegations, typically of whistleblowing or discrimination, to support their claim of unfair dismissal.

Unfortunately for employers, Employment Tribunals are usually very reluctant to make any finding that such claims have little or no merit before the case has been heard in a full trial with witnesses giving evidence.  So almost no matter how fanciful or even offensive the allegation might seem, once such a claim is made to the Employment Tribunals, they can result in a lot of hard work in defending them.

More fortunately, we have the experience and expertise to do just that.  If you have any concerns about a current or foreseen dispute, just give us a call.