Unfair Dismissal

When an employer ends the employment of work they should have a valid reason for that or else it could be perceived as unfair dismissal.

Even with a valid reason, the employer still needs to show that they have followed procedures by investigating the circumstances in full before dismissing an employee and that they are consistent in their judgment. The employer cannot dismiss a worker for doing something that some other worker did and got away with.

When is it fair to dismiss an employee?

Before the employer dismisses an employee they have to ensure that they fall under one or more of these categories:

  • Job capability: if the employee is no longer able to carry out their duties on the job, either for poor performance or because of prolonged sickness. Also if the employee has difficulty keeping up with changes to the job or can’t get along with their colleagues.
  • Misconduct: an employee who commits gross misconduct such as being violent against a co-worker, customer or property can be dismissed without having to go through the normal disciplinary procedure.
  • Legal reasons: if an employee is sent to prison, lost the right to live or work in the UK, or if they can no longer carry out their duties without breaking the law, like a driver who loses their driving licence, are all grounds for fair dismissal.
  • Redundancy: in cases of redundancy, the employer has a valid reason to dismiss the employee especially when their role becomes redundant, and everyone carrying that role has been treated fairly.

When is dismissal unfair

Automatic unfair dismissal is related to dismissal cases where the employee was dismissed for exercising their rights. Such as:

  • A pregnant employee or someone on maternity leave.
  • Paternal leave including adoption and taking time off to care for dependants.
  • Employees who ask for their legal rights at work or take action about safety work issues.
  • When an employee acts as an employee representative.
  • Being part of a trade union and taking part in trade union activities.
  • The employee was part of the business for two years or more, and the business was transferred to a new employer.

It is worth noting that any employee who falls under any of the above categories can still be dismissed. However, the main reason for dismissal should not be any one of them.


When dismissing an employee, the employer should make sure they have sufficient grounds for the dismissal, and they should follow disciplinary procedures. In cases of gross misconduct, the employer can execute a summary dismissal after a full investigation.