Nobody likes losing their job but if you feel you’ve been unfairly dismissed, you will likely feel particularly hard done by. Employers have the right to sack (in legal parlance, dismiss) employees if they feel the circumstances justify it – but if they do so unfairly, then you may have the option to challenge their decision in a court of law.
The first step in challenging an unfair dismissal case is to establish whether you’re legally considered to be an employee. For example, a freelancer by default is not considered to be employed, so has no rights when it comes to dismissal. Also, under UK law, you will only usually have earned the right to challenge if you’ve been employed by the firm for two or more years.
Advice for raising a successful unfair dismissal case
Presuming you are considered to be an employee and therefore have the right to challenge, below are a few guidelines you should follow to help evaluate your case and mount a legal challenge. There are numerous specialist employment lawyers that will challenge unfair dismissal – no win no fee basis – but you’ll need to satisfy certain criteria first.
Prove that you’ve been dismissed
Clearly, the first step in raising a case is to prove the dismissal happened. While it might sound obvious, people sometimes get confused between the idea of being suspended or resigning by choice – so make sure you definitely have been dismissed before taking the case further. You are considered dismissed if your employer:
- Refuses to renew your contract
- Ends your contract – with or without giving notice
- Dismisses you for going on strike
- Refuses to let you return to work following maternity leave
- Makes you redundant
Establish if you have a case for constructive dismissal
You could also possibly be eligible for legal support if you resigned through pressure or if your employer acted in a way that was in breach of your contractual agreement, giving you no choice but to leave.
Check your employment status
It’s important to check your employment status as only certain types of workers have employee rights covering unfair dismissal. You will not be entitled to any type of action if you fall into the following categories:
- Working in a self-employed capacity
- Working through an agency
- You work in the police or armed forces
- You are working overseas or for a foreign government
- You are a registered dock worker
- You are a share fisherman/woman
Differentiate between fair and unfair reasons for dismissal
The onus is on your employer to inform you of the reasons behind their decision to terminate your employment. If you’ve worked with them for two or more years, they have an obligation to provide this to you in writing or by email. There are some ‘automatically unfair’ reasons for dismissal which include discrimination and the following:
- You were sacked for demanding your legal rights – for example, asking to be paid the minimum wage
- You were dismissed after raising a health and safety issue
- At the time of your dismissal, you were pregnant or on maternity leave
- You reported your employer for improper actions (aka, whistleblowing)
- You work in a store or bookmakers and refused to work on Sundays
- You are a member of a trade union and were sacked after taking part in trade union activities or industrial action
- You were dismissed after the business changed hands to a new owner
- You were sacked for failing to declare a conviction that was considered ‘spent’
If you’re any doubt regarding your eligibility to raise an unfair dismissal case, you should legal advice immediately. A professional legal firm will fully assess your case and evaluate your chances of success.