Unfair Dismissal definition

Unfair dismissal, known in the US as unjustifiable dismissal, is termination of an employment contract in contravention of relevant legislation – in the UK this is the Employment Rights Act 1996.

In the UK, unfair dismissal can only apply to individuals who have worked for an organisation for a year or more (two years or more if they joined the organisation after April 6 2012). In cases where discrimination may play a part in the dismissal, as set out by the Equality Act 2010, this requirement is lifted.

Employment tribunals will consider whether an employer had legitimate grounds to dismiss an employee from an established list of reasonable grounds, including statutory requirements, redundancies, crime and medical grounds.

The important thing to note is that although these – and others – may be seen as reasonable reasons for dismissal, the central tenets of the case, and the employer’s decisions, attitude and actions during the dismissal process, will be key to establishing whether the dismissal was unfair.

Unfair dismissal differs from wrongful dismissal – the latter occurs when an employer terminates an individual in breach of the employment contract both parties have signed. Constructive dismissal, which also differs from unfair dismissal, occurs when an employee terminates the employment contract because of an action by the employer which fundamentally destroys the trust inherent in the relationship.