Employees generally have to have been continuously employed for one year to allow them to claim unfair dismissal. There are certain exclusions to this requirement, including for example dismissals for reasons connected to pregnancy or childbirth, health and safety activities, whistleblowing exercising various time off rights, or asserting a statutory right under the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.
There are five potentially fair reasons for dismissal: capability or qualifications, conduct, redundancy, breach of a statutory duty or restriction and "some other substantial reason". It is up to the employer to prove the reason for an employee’s dismissal.
There is a statutory cap on the amount of compensation which a Tribunal can award for a successful unfair dismissal. This figure is uprated each year and is currently £78,400.
Employers should follow 3 step procedure when dismissing an employee – a failure to do so may result in any compensation awarded being uplifted by up to 50% and further result in a finding of automatic unfair dismissal. The Labour Relations Agency Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures gives further guidance on the 3 step procedure and is available here:
Please also see our recent article which provides an overview of the steps to be followed:
There is a three month time limit in which to submit a claim of unfair dismissal to an Industrial Tribunal. This time limit is extremely strictly adhered to and it is exceptionally rare that a claim will be accepted after the time limit. The three months start to run from the “effective date of termination” ie the date the employee is informed/they become aware that they are being dismissed.
It is a common misconception that it you have submitted an appeal against your dismissal that the time limit has not yet started to run – this is incorrect. Time starts to run from the effective date of termination, regardless of whether there is an appeal pending or not. Therefore, legal advice should be sought promptly and claims should be made to the Tribunal without delay.
If you have any queries about unfair dismissal, please do not hesitate to contact us.