Data file: Unfair dismissal

The latest in a series of articles that give the basics on key areas of
employment legislation. This issue we look at unfair dismissal

The hard facts
Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) Part X
Chapter I, sections 94 to 110 (right not to be unfairly dismissed)
Chapter II, sections 111 to 132 (remedies)

– An applicant bringing a claim for unfair dismissal must be able to show he
was dismissed by his employer (Section 95 (1))

– An applicant bringing a claim for unfair dismissal must show that he was
an employee of the company he is bringing the claim against (Section 94 (1);
Section 230 (1))

– In most cases – other than where a dismissal is automatically unfair – an
employee must have at least one year’s continuous service in order to bring a
claim for unfair dismissal (Section 108 (1))

– A complaint of unfair dismissal must be presented to an employment
tribunal before the end of a three-month period, starting from the effective
date of termination of employment (Section 111 (2))

– An employer may be able to justify the dismissal, provided it falls within
one of five prescribed reasons and the employer was reasonable in relying on
that reason to dismiss (Section 98 (1) and (2)).

The reasons are:

– The employee was incapable of performing the type of work he was employed
to do

– The employee lacked the qualifications required to perform the type of
work he was employed by the employer to do

– Misconduct

– Redundancy

– If the employee were to continue to be employed in the position he held,
either he or the employer would be in breach of some statutory provision; or

– Some other substantial reason which would justify dismissal

– Certain classes of employment are excluded from the protection of the
unfair dismissal provisions (Sections 196(2), (3), (5), 197(1))

– Certain dismissals are automatically unfair – for example, where the
reason is pregnancy, trade union activities, or asserting a statutory right

– There are various remedies for unfair dismissal (Sections 116(1), 114(1),
116(2), 118(1), 128). In addition, the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal
is currently £51,700

Reading around the subject

Fair and Unfair Dismissal: A Guide for Employers – a general guide for

– Dismissal – Fair or Unfair? – a small business factsheet

– Question and Answer – on discipline, dismissal and grievances

– A useful guide on the legal requirements for dealing with grievances

– A practical guide on how to draw up disciplinary and grievance procedures

– Basic Guide to… Disciplinary Hearings

In the news

– The new Acas Arbitration Scheme (launched 21 May) providing a voluntary
alternative to employment tribunal hearings:

– A summary of the Acas unfair dismissal arbitration scheme

Other sources
Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service
Confederation of British Industry
Department of Trade & Industry
Her Majesty’s Stationery Office
Trades Union Congress
Government Online Information Service
Financial Times

Useful contacts

List of addresses and telephone numbers for Acas offices

Employment tribunals enquiry line 0845 7959 775

By Catherine Taylor, Rebecca Ford and Robert Hughes at Olswang,

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