Before instigating a claim for unfair dismissal, you must determine whether or not you were an employee of the company from which you were sacked. If you were an independent contractor or freelance agent, you will not be able to claim unfair dismissal. You must also work out whether or not you were in continuous employment with your employer for a minimum of one year.
Determining Whether You Were Unfairly Dismissed
There are some situations in which your employer would have had the right to fairly dismiss you. For example, if you were:
• Unable to fulfil your job description
• Diagnosed with a long-term illness that made it impossible for you to work
• Fairly selected for redundancy
• Found to be guilty of gross misconduct
• Unable to meet the statutory requirements of your job role
• Sent to prison
• Found to be unreasonably refusing to accept changes to your employment terms resulting from company reorganisation
Before dismissing you, your employer should have acted reasonably. If, for example, you were diagnosed with a long-term illness, your employer should have provided you with reasonable time off work to recover and should have sought ways to support you in the workplace.
If you were unfairly dismissed, you may be able to take legal action against your employer. Your dismissal may have been unfair if your employer did not provide a good reason for your dismissal or did not adhere to formal disciplinary or dismissal procedures. You may have experienced automatic unfair dismissal if you were sacked following putting in a request for flexible working hours or joining a trade union, for example.
If you were unfairly dismissed, you may wish to seek advice from a third party, such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) before trying to solve the issue through your employer’s grievance procedure. If you are a member of a trade union, you should consult with your union representative before taking action.
If you are unable to solve the problem with your employer, you should submit a claim for unfair dismissal to an independent employment tribunal within a maximum of three months of the date of your dismissal. To apply to an employment tribunal, you will need to fill in a claim form and send it to your local employment tribunal office.
Your employer usually has to respond to your dismissal claim and provide their side of your case within 28 days of receiving your claim form. In the absence of a reply, an employment judge can make a judgement on your case without calling for a formal hearing.
Calculating Compensation for Successful Unfair Dismissal Cases
If you make a claim for unfair dismissal and you are successful, the employment tribunal will award you compensation from your employer and/or inform your employer that they must give you your job back.
Compensation for unfair dismissal is usually comprised of a basic award and a compensatory award. The basic award is based upon your gross pay and the maximum amount that you can receive is £13,500 for a termination date that fell or after the 1st of February 2013. The compensatory award is designed to compensate for your loss of earnings and can include your loss of net pay, benefits, overtime, bonuses and pension rights. The maximum compensatory payment that you can receive is £74,200 for a termination date that fell on or after the 1st of February 2013.
Appealing Unsuccessful Unfair Dismissal Cases
If you make a claim for unfair dismissal and you lose your case, you will be granted the chance to ask the tribunal to look into your case again and/or put in an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
To have your case reviewed, you will need to write to the employment tribunal office within 14 days of receiving their decision to explain why you want your case to be reviewed. You can only request a review if you have reason to believe that the tribunal made a mistake, you were not informed of the hearing or you have obtained new evidence since your hearing.
If you believe the employment tribunal made legal mistakes, you may appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal within a maximum of 42 days of receiving the employment tribunal office’s decision.
If you believe that you were unfairly dismissed from your job, you should consult with an experienced legal adviser as soon as possible. You can obtain invaluable information from organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, or direct legal advice from law advice lines.