Dismissal is when your employer ends your employment. This could happen in several ways, including if your:
- employer tells you they are ending your employment, with or without notice
- employer constructively dismisses you by breaching your employment contract so badly that you are forced to leave
- fixed-term contract is not renewed
- Breach of employment contract
- Fixed-term workers
Your employer's responsibilities
If your employer has dismissed you, they must show they have:
- a valid reason that they can justify (for example, if you have not been able to do your job)
- acted reasonably in the circumstances (for example, if there was no training or support to help)
- Fair reasons for dismissal
Your employer needs to have investigated fully before dismissing you. If your employer acted fairly but came to the wrong conclusion, (for example, if they have got the facts wrong) this will not necessarily mean your dismissal is unfair.
Your employer must be able to show that they have been consistent and haven't sacked you for doing something that they normally let other employees do. You may be able to claim unfair dismissal if you can show that you weren't told about a relevant company rule or policy by your employer.
An unfair dismissal is where your employer sacks you, or forces you to leave, without good reason or fails to follow fair dismissal procedures.
A dismissal could be automatically unfair if you are dismissed because you tried to claim one of your statutory employment rights. In most cases you need at least a year's service before you can make an unfair dismissal claim.
Wrongful dismissal is when your employer breaches your contract in dismissing you or forcing you to leave. For example, they could dismiss you without notice or without following their disciplinary and dismissal process.
A dismissal can be both wrongful and unfair.
Your employer must normally give you at least the notice outlined in your contract of employment or the statutory minimum notice period, whichever is longer.
'Summary dismissal' is dismissal without notice and is only allowed for 'gross misconduct'. This is where a situation is serious enough for your employer to dismiss you without warning (for example, for violence). Your employer should always investigate the circumstances before making a dismissal, even in possible gross misconduct cases.
When your employment contract ends
If your employer gives you notice that you are going to be dismissed then the day your employment contract ends will be the last day of your notice. If you work past your notice date then your end date will still be the last date of the notice that was given to you.
If your contract was terminated without notice by your employer and you weren't entitled to receive notice (for example, if you're dismissed for gross misconduct) your end date is the day you were dismissed.
If your employer gives you a shorter notice period than the length you are entitled to, your employment contract will end on the date it would have ended if you had been given the correct notice.
If you are a fixed-term worker then your employment contract will end on the pre-agreed date.
If you receive payment in lieu of notice (PILON) then your end date is normally the last day you worked for your employer. Your right to receive PILON should be written in your employment contract.
Your right to written reasons for dismissal
It is good practice for an employer to give reasons for dismissal. You are entitled to receive a written statement from your employer giving the reasons why you have been dismissed if you:
- are an employee and have completed a year's service with your employer
- are employed under a fixed-term contract which has expired and is not to be renewed
You usually need to ask for this and your employer should give it to you within 14 days of asking.
If you were dismissed while pregnant or on maternity or adoption leave, you are entitled to written reasons without having to ask for them.
If you have problems
If you have the right to receive written reasons for dismissal but your employer won't give you them, or you don't believe the reasons given are the real ones, you can complain to an Industrial Tribunal. Before doing this you may want to try using your company's grievance procedure (but you don't have to).
If you think your dismissal was unfair, you could consider claiming unfair dismissal to an Industrial Tribunal.
For further information you may wish to refer to the Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (Labour Relations Agency website)
Where you can get help
The Labour Relations Agency offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.
Advice NI offers free and impartial advice.
If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.