Written explanation of reasons for dismissal

Do employees have a right to receive a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

Yes. Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 92, employees with at least two years’ continuous service on the effective date of termination are entitled to a written statement giving particulars of the reasons for their dismissal in circumstances where: the employer gives notice of the termination of the contract; the employer dismisses without notice; or a limited-term contract terminates by virtue of the limiting event and is not renewed.

If notice is given, the effective date of termination is the date on which the notice expires. If no notice is given, it is the date on which the termination takes effect. In relation to a limited-term contract, the effective date of termination is the date on which the termination takes effect. However, where the statutory minimum notice required by the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 86, would have expired on a later date if it had been given, this later date is the effective date of termination.

Is there an automatic requirement for the employer to provide a written statement of reasons for dismissal in these circumstances?

In most cases an employee is entitled to a written statement of reasons for dismissal only if they request one. The request may be verbal or in writing. Where dismissal is with notice, the employee can request the statement before the contract comes to an end. Otherwise the request may be made at any time after the right has arisen. In practice the employee needs to make the request within three months of the effective date of termination, as this is the time limit for bringing a tribunal claim. The employer then has 14 days in which to provide the written statement.

Are there any circumstances in which an employee with less than two years’ continuous service is entitled to a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

Yes. If an employee is dismissed at any time while they are pregnant or after childbirth in circumstances in which their ordinary or additional maternity leave period ends by reason of the dismissal, they are entitled to a written statement of reasons for dismissal regardless of their length of service. The same is true of an employee on a period of ordinary or additional adoption leave who is dismissed in circumstances where the period ends by reason of the dismissal.

In addition, in these circumstances, there is no requirement for the employee to request the statement: the employer must provide it automatically.

Can a tribunal claim be brought in relation to an employer’s failure to provide a written statement of reasons for dismissal?

An employee may present a claim to an employment tribunal on the grounds either that the employer unreasonably refused to provide a statement, or that a statement was given, but the particulars included were inadequate or untrue.

The complaint must be presented to the tribunal within three months of the effective date of termination, unless the tribunal is satisfied that it was not reasonably practicable for the employee to present it within this time limit.

Where the tribunal finds the complaint to be well founded it will make an award of two weeks’ pay, which is not subject to the statutory maximum. It can also make a statement on its findings about the employer’s reasons for dismissing the employee.

Can an employee use a written statement in further proceedings?

Yes. An employee may use a written statement of reasons for dismissal as evidence in further proceedings, such as a claim for unfair dismissal or a redundancy payment. It is, therefore, important for the employer to ensure that the reasons given in the statement are accurate and consistent with previous information given to the employee.

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