Unfair dismissal from work

Getting fired is an unfortunate part of life. But sometimes, it can feel like it came completely out of the blue. In that case, you might wanna have a chat with your boss. If they can’t come up with a legit reason why you’ve been given the sack then you may have grounds to challenge them. The Mix explains everything you need to know about unfair dismissal from work.

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What is unfair dismissal from work?

Before you storm into the office, throwing allegations of misconduct around, you need to do some serious self-reflection. Be honest with yourself about the reasons you’ve been dismissed from work. Unfair dismissal is when you’re forced to leave your job for illegitimate reasons. These can be automatically unfair, or it can depend on the circumstances. So, if you truly can’t think of a reason why then you should start to consider forming a case. In either case, you should be given a notice period where you’ll get paid one last time and be able to get your affairs in order.

It’s automatically a case of unfair dismissal from work if:

  • You’ve been discriminated against because of your sex, race, disability, sexuality or age.
  • You’re pregnant, on maternity leave and you’ve been permanently replaced. Or your boss stops you from returning after maternity leave.
  • You’ve tried to claim one of your basic rights, like having minimum wage, paid holiday, sick pay, or rest breaks, and been dismissed because of it.
  • The sacking was due to being part of a trade union, or for joining in with any of their actions.
  • You’ve reported something your company or organisation has been involved with for the benefit of the public. This is called ‘whistle-blowing’ and it comes with certain protections. 

It may be a case of unfair dismissal if:

  • If your employer says you’re not capable of doing the job without any evidence to support their claim. Either because you don’t have the right skills or because of illness.
  • You don’t have the right qualifications, or no longer have them.
  • If you’ve been fired for your behaviour without any disciplinary procedure, e.g. you photocopied your arse at the Christmas party. (But if it’s because you’ve stolen something, harassed someone, broken health and safety rules, or been violent, (a.k.a. gross misconduct) then this’ll definitely be fair dismissal. In this case, in lieu of a notice period, you’ll probably just get a letter sent to your email address saying you’re fired).
  • If you’ve been made redundant and the employer hasn’t explained why or there was another job you could have taken which wasn’t offered to you.

We should mention that these situations can only be unfair dismissal if you’ve been in your job for over a year (or two years if you started after April 2012).

If you think you’ve been unfairly suspended from work

The easiest thing to do is sort it out with your employer privately. That way you won’t have to go through the disciplinary process.

Once your boss has told you you’ve been dismissed, you should be able to question their decision. They’ll probably have one more convo with you and then make a final decision. Depending on the reason you’ve been dismissed from work, you might be suspended while your appeal is happening. Usually, you’ll continue to receive full pay whilst suspended. Being suspended without pay is very rare but it’s not impossible – your employment contract will say if your employer can do this.

If you still think you’ve been unfairly suspended from work, you can take it to an employment tribunal. But you have to do this within three months of being dismissed. We’d recommend contacting your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) ASAP to get advice.

Your other option is to go to Acas. If your case is pretty straightforward, they can sort your claim out quickly, simply and informally. It’s important to note that if you use Acas and don’t like their decision, you’re not allowed to appeal or take it to a tribunal. So, before you decide to go down this route, it’s worth having a chat with CAB, and talking through your options.

What compensation can I get if I’ve been dismissed from work?

Unfair dismissal is a pretty serious violation of the mutual duty of trust and confidence. This requires both of you to act in the interest of maintaining your professional relationship. So, if you win your case, you’ll usually get both a ‘compensatory award’ and a ‘basic award’.

The basic award depends on how much you’re earning. If you’re 21 or younger you’ll get half a week’s pay for every week you have worked in that job. If you’re aged between 22 and 41, you get the whole week’s pay for every week you have worked.

The compensatory award is made up of anything you’ll have lost out on, like bonuses or overtime, and can reach a maximum of £74,200. But any claims you’ve made, like JSA or income support, will be taken from the end figure the court gives you.

Technically the employment tribunal could decide you should get your job back, but this is very rare. Plus, after everything you’ve been through, it’s probably best to just take the money and run.

More support on unfair dismissal:

  • Acas offers free legal advice about everything to do with employment law. Call them on 0300 123 1100.
  • Have you ever been dismissed from work? Share your story on our discussion boards.

Next Steps

  • Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law. 0300 123 1100
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


work rights

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 12-Feb-2022