How to Take an Unfair Dismissal Case to Employment Tribunal

It’s something of an untruth that it’s tough to get fired in the UK.

Whether you’re caught snoozing at your desk or nabbed knocking back booze at lunchtime, some commentators would have you believe the only repercussions are a rap on the knuckles and an order to buck up your ideas.

But employees in the UK receive less protection than you’d imagine.  

Indeed, speaking to The Guardian, David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College, says the UK actually ranks third worst for employee protection, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Drop in Unfair Dismissal Cases

Considering employees’ apparent vulnerability in the workplace, then, it would perhaps be natural to presume that cases of unfair dismissal are at an all time high.

However, with the government’s introduction of fees of up to £1,200 to access the tribunal system, research from Citizens Advice has revealed around seven out of 10 potentially successful cases that could have gone before tribunals are not going ahead.

Add in the fact that, since the 6th of April 2012, the period during which your employer can dismiss you without answering to an industrial tribunal increased from one to two years, successfully claiming for unfair dismissal can be fraught with difficulties.

So, if things do go awry, what’s the best way to pursue your claim?

Understand Your Dismissal

It’s justifiably infuriating if you feel your employer has dismissed you unfairly.

But if you’ve recently been given the bullet, it’s important to understand your employer must provide you with a valid reason for their actions, as well as showing they’ve acted reasonably in the circumstances.

Some of the situations when your employer can dismiss you fairly include:

  • Not being able to carry out your role
  • Illness
  • Redundancy
  • Summary dismissal
  • A ‘statutory restriction’
  • A ‘substantial reason’

Significantly, your employer should be steadfast in their decisions, which means they can’t fire you for something other employees are allowed to do, and the situation must be investigated before dismissing you.

As outlined on the government website, unless you’re dismissed immediately for violent or threatening behaviour, you must be given the notice stated in your contract or the statutory minimum notice period, whichever is longer.

If you’re an employee and have completed two years’ service, you also have the right to ask your employer for a written statement, outlining the reasons why your employment has been terminated.

Taking Legal Action

Depending on the situation, then, you may be able to commence legal action if you’re dismissed.

In most cases, your dismissal is unfair if your employer doesn’t have a valid reason for dismissing you, or if they’ve blatantly neglected to follow the organisation’s formal disciplinary or dismissal procedures.

Some of the reasons for automatically unfair dismissal (not dependent on length) of service include:

  • Dismissal because you’re pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Dismissal for exercising your statutory employment rights
  • Dismissal for reporting a health and safety concern
  • Dismissal for refusing to work on a Sunday if you’re employed in a shop or betting shop
  • Dismissal for whistleblowing on a matter of public concern

However, if you’ve been let go for one of the following reasons ...

  • Your employer's business has been transferred and your dismissal is only because of new owners taking over
  • If you've not declared a spent conviction

... an employment tribunal should find you've been automatically unfairly dismissed if you've worked for your employer for at least two years.

Regardless of the situation, though, it’s vitally important to attempt mediation, conciliation and arbitration to solve the issue. If unsuccessful, however, get the experts on your side by consulting an employment law specialist who can talk you through the next steps.

Heading to an Employment Tribunal

If you’re unable to iron out the issues between you and your employer, you can usually take your unfair dismissal case to an employment tribunal, where your case – and that of your employer – will be listened to before they make a decision.

However, you MUST make the claim to a tribunal within THREE MONTHS of being dismissed.

Before this, though, it’s necessary to notify Acas of your intention to make a claim to the tribunal, which means you’ll be offered the opportunity to settle the dispute with your employer by using their free of charge ‘Early Conciliation’ service.

If conciliation is unsuccessful, Acas will then issue you with a certificate, which must be used when you make the tribunal claim. In these cases, the claim deadline is extended by the amount of time spent in conciliation.

You may have to pay a fee when making your claim, with the amount you need to pay dependent on your case and your personal circumstances, but you can find the most common types of fees listed here.

Once you’ve made your application to the tribunal, your employer will typically have to respond in writing within 28 days, with your employer given the opportunity to offer their side of the story. Next, the tribunal will decide whether there’ll be a full hearing to decide the outcome.

Contact the Employment Law Experts

Facing your former employer in an unfair dismissal battle is undoubtedly a frightening prospect – but with a team of employment law experts in your corner, you can be sure you’ll be armed with everything you need to present your case.

At Ashby Cohen, we’ve dealt with cases like yours on numerous occasions, with our specialist solicitors working with you to achieve an outcome – conducted in an efficient and practical manner – that’s in your best interests.

For more information about unfair dismissal, or any of the employment law services we offer, please get in touch with a member of the team today for your free initial consultation – we’d be delighted to help.