A person who believes they have been unfairly dismissed will only be able to bring a claim to an employment tribunal if they satisfy certain criteria. They must:
- have employee status, rather than self-employed or worker status
- have been dismissed
- bring the claim within three months of dismissal (see below)
- not fall within one of the classes of employee who are excluded from the right to claim unfair dismissal (such as police officers and members of the armed forces, for example)
- have worked for their employer for the applicable qualifying period.
In most cases, a claim to an employment tribunal must be received by the tribunal within three calendar months less one day of the date on which your employment is terminated.
For example, if your effective date of termination was 19 March 2013, then your unfair dismissal claim must be received by the employment tribunal no later than 18 June 2013. If this date is a Saturday or Sunday or Bank Holiday then the claim must be received by the Friday or the working day before the Bank Holiday.
Time limits are affected by the ACAS early conciliation scheme.
Before lodging an employment tribunal claim, all claimants will need to notify ACAS and conciliation will be offered. If conciliation is unsuccessful, the claimant can proceed to lodge a tribunal claim. The length of the conciliation period will have an impact on the deadline for presenting an employment tribunal claim. For further advice, please contact us.
Please see the ACAS guidance on early conciliation. For Northern Ireland, read the Labour Relations Agency's advice on pre-claim conciliation.
In general, to lodge a claim of unfair dismissal in England, Wales or Scotland you must have been employed continuously for two years. In Northern Ireland, you must have had one year’s continuous service with your employer.
Wrongful dismissal and automatic unfair dismissal (see below) have no continuous service qualifying periods for lodging a employment tribunal claim - your rights are applicable from day one of employment. Please see exceptions below.
Dismissals for the following reasons (for example) are automatically unfair and therefore there is no requirement for the employee to have worked for their employer for any qualifying period of employment:
- raising health and safety concerns
- asserting a statutory right
- dismissals relating to union membership or non-membership
- transfer of an undertaking unless an economic, technical or organisational reason applies
- certain redundancy dismissals relating to trade union membership or activities.
There are circumstances in which employees may, following termination of their employment contract, be able to make other types of legal claim to a tribunal regardless of the length of time they have worked for their employer, such as in cases of unlawful discrimination.