This guide advises RCN members facing dismissal, and includes information about types of dismissal and employment tribunal time limits.
There are four types of dismissal:
Unfair dismissal is the legal expression used when termination of the contract occurs without good reason and/or the employer has failed to follow a fair procedure before terminating the contract.
To avoid or defend an unfair dismissal claim the employer will have to show that the reason for the dismissal is one of the following potentially fair reasons:
In addition, the tribunal will have to be satisfied that the employer acted reasonably in relying on that reason for dismissal.
Please see information about time limits and qualifying periods below.
Wrongful dismissal arises when your employer either terminates your contract without appropriate contractual or statutory notice, or breaches a fundamental term in your employment contract which forces you to leave without notice. Dismissal (i.e. termination of the contract) can be both wrongful and unfair, for wrongful dismissal, however, there is no service qualification period to make an employment tribunal or civil law claim for your salary in lieu of your notice entitlement.
Please see information about time limits below.
This is when you resign from your job because of your employer’s behaviour/breach of your contract. You would need to show that:
There must be a serious and fundamental breach of your contract. Possible examples include:
The breach could be a one-off significant incident, or a series of perhaps more minor incidents which, together, amount to a fundamental breach of contract.
Please see information about time limits and qualifying periods below.Back to contents
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:
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. Find out more about 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:
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.Back to contents
You are entitled to written reasons for your dismissal provided you meet the minimum qualifying period outlined above. If your employer unreasonably refuses to give written reasons then you may bring a claim to an employment tribunal within three months of the effective date of termination of your employment.Back to contents
If you have been dismissed from your job, please call us on 0345 772 6100 for further advice. It is important to obtain advice promptly as there are strict time limits for lodging claims with an employment tribunal (industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland).
Most claims to an employment tribunal must be made within three months minus one day from the date of the act(s) you are complaining about. In an unfair dismissal claim it would be three months from the date of dismissal. If, for example, you were dismissed on 1 February the claim would need to be lodged with the tribunal on or before 30 April.
Identifying the actual date of termination for the purposes of an unfair dismissal claim is not always easy, so seek advice as soon as possible.Back to contents