What is unfair dismissal?
Unfair dismissal is what happens when an employer fires you for reasons considered unfair by law. In Northern Ireland, there are laws to protect your rights as an employee or worker and employers are obliged to abide by these in relation to their conduct with you. This includes when they have decided to end your employment. Unfair dismissal is different from constructive dismissal. This is when you resigned from your position because you felt you had no other option.
Employees have to be employed continuously for one year to allow them to commence an unfair dismissal claim.
Some examples of instances that would constitute unfair dismissal might include:
- Being immediately dismissed as a result of a minor or trivial incident which is not classed as gross misconduct.
- Being dismissed upon your return from maternity leave.
- If the employer fails to follow the statutory procedure in relation to a disciplinary process.
However, there is an exception to the one year time period if the dismissal is considered automatically unfair.
Some examples of instances that would constitute an automatically unfair dismissal might include:
- Making a flexible working request.
- Asking for a legal right such as the National Minimum Wage or holiday entitlement.
- Membership of a trade union such NIPSA.
- Being selected for jury service and the employer refuses to pay you whilst you attend Court.
- If the employer treats you unfairly as a result of you having made a protected disclosure, i.e. whistleblowing.
You should initially seek to resolve the matter with your employer if you can. They must give you the opportunity to appeal their decision to dismiss you. They must also inform you of your right to have a union representative or friend present during the appeal process. If the employer upholds the dismissal, you have 3 months from the date on which your employment ended to lodge unfair dismissal proceedings. If you feel you were unfairly dismissed by your employer it is essential that you seek independent legal advice as soon as possible.
Claiming for unfair dismissal in Belfast & Northern Ireland
If you do pursue an unfair dismissal claim, you might be entitled to compensation. The amount varies depending on the circumstances and your losses resulting from the unfair dismissal. A specialist employment law solicitor can advise you on what they feel a fair monetary value is. In many instances, unfair dismissal claims can be settled early through mediation. For example, your solicitor might liaise with the Labour Relations Agency on your behalf.
If a settlement cannot be reached, your solicitor may advise proceeding to the Office of the Industrial Tribunal and Fair Employment Tribunal. Your case will be heard by a Judge who will decide if your employer is liable for your unfair dismissal and if so, they may award you damages.
Talk to a unfair dismissal solicitor
If you feel that you were dismissed unfairly, then you might have a viable unfair dismissal claim. If you would like to find out, we offer free, confidential initial consultations with an employment solicitor. Contact us today to book yours or read more about our Unfair & Constructive Dismissal Claims service.