You’re fired! Unfair dismissal

Alan Sugar

By John McShane

When I hear Alan Sugar’s famous catchphrase “you’re fired” I cringe. The law relating to employee rights has progressed significantly since the master servant relationship of the 18th and 19thcenturies, which in turn has led to a plethora of legal obligations to ensure a dismissal is fair. If employers fail to follow these legal obligations the implications can be significant.

When is a dismissal fair or unfair?

Fair – Dismissal is normally fair if an employer can show that it is for one of the following reasons:

  • a reason related to an employee’s conduct
  • a reason related to an employee’s capability or qualifications for the job
  • because of a redundancy
  • because a statutory duty or restriction prohibited the employment being continued
  • some other substantial reason of a kind which justifies the dismissal.
  • And that they acted reasonably in treating that reason as sufficient for dismissal.

Unfair – Dismissals are classed as ‘automatically unfair’ if the reason for dismissal is connected with an employee exercising specific rights relating to:

  • pregnancy: including all reasons relating to maternity
  • family reasons: including parental leave, paternity leave (birth and adoption), adoption leave or time off for dependants
  • representation: including acting as an employee representative
  • trade union membership grounds and union recognition
  • part-time and fixed-term employees
  • pay and working hours: including the Working Time Regulations, annual leave and the National Minimum Wage.

If you require any advice in relation to unfair dismissal or indeed any employment related issues please contact our employment law team on 028 90 329801 or by email