What to do if you are unfairly dismissed

If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed by your employer, you should try appealing under your employer's dismissal or disciplinary procedures. If this does not work, then you may be able to make an appeal to an Industrial Tribunal.

Resolving the problem with your employer

Before making a formal complaint for unfair dismissal you should try and resolve the reasons for your dismissal with your employer.

For further information you may wish to refer to the Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

You and your employer could try conciliation through the Labour Relations Agency where a specialist helps you sort out the problem.

Another option is individual arbitration, where an independent arbitrator hears the case and makes a legally binding decision.

Things to remember

Keep copies of any letters you send and written notes of meetings and telephone conversations.

While you are looking for a new job you may be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Housing Benefit.

Going to an Industrial Tribunal

If you want to make a claim to an Industrial Tribunal for unfair dismissal, you will normally need one year's service first. If you were dismissed for an automatically unfair reason you can make a claim no matter how long you had worked for your employer.

You must make the claim to an Industrial Tribunal within three months of being dismissed.

You can't make a complaint of unfair dismissal if you are a:

  • worker (rather than an employee)
  • member of the armed forces
  • self-employed person
  • an agency temp working under a contract for services
  • share fisherman
  • member of the police service (unless you were dismissed for taking action on health and safety grounds or whistleblowing)
  • exempt from the unfair dismissal provisions by an order made by the Department for the Economy
  • Understanding your work status

Agreeing not to make a complaint of unfair dismissal

If you have reached a 'compromise agreement' with your employer, where you agreed not to make an unfair dismissal complaint, then you can't then make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal. When you make a 'compromise agreement' with your employer, you must have received independent legal advice.

If you are successful

If an Industrial Tribunal finds in your favour, you will usually be awarded compensation. Sometimes you will be given the opportunity to return to your job. You don't have to take your job back, but your compensation may be lower if you don't.

Compensation is intended to put you where you would have been financially if you hadn't been sacked - there's no compensation for hurt feelings (except if you have also successfully claimed for unlawful discrimination). You will be expected to minimise any financial loss by claiming benefits from your local Jobs and Benefits office, or look for new work.

For unfair dismissal claims the award is made up of:

  • the basic award, which is calculated based on your age and length of service, subject to a maximum limit which is reviewed every year
  • a compensatory award, also subject to a maximum limit which is reviewed every year

In ordinary unfair dismissal cases there is no minimum basic award. However there is a minimum figure for the basic award in the case of employees who are unfairly dismissed on certain trade union, health and safety, occupational pension scheme trustee, employee representative and working time grounds only.

There is no limit on the ‘compensatory award’ a tribunal can award where the employee is dismissed unfairly or selected for redundancy for reasons connected with health and safety matters or public interest disclosures (‘whistle-blowing’).

An Industrial Tribunal may reduce your compensation if it decides that your conduct played a part in your dismissal.

Interim relief

In some cases you may be able to make an application to an Industrial Tribunal for interim relief if you have been dismissed. If the Industrial  Tribunal believes it is likely at your full hearing that your complaint will be successful it may order:

  • your reinstatement to work (meaning that you should be treated as if you were never dismissed)
  • your re-engagement (meaning that you should be re-employed but not necessarily in the same job or with the same terms and conditions of employment)
  • the temporary continuation of your contract of employment (meaning that your contract of employment will continue until you settle your claim)

You can make a claim for interim relief if you believe you have been dismissed because:

  • of a trade union related reason (for example, your membership)
  • of your duties as a health and safety representative, occupational pension scheme trustee or employee representative
  • you made a public interest disclosure (also known as whistleblowing)
  • you wanted to be accompanied to a grievance or disciplinary meeting
  • you wanted to request, or to discuss requesting, not to retire, or you wanted to be accompanied to a meeting to discuss your request

You should make a claim for interim relief within seven days of being dismissed.

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