How to Claim for Unfair Dismissal

If you feel you’ve been unfairly dismissed from a job, you may be able to make a claim through an employment tribunal.

If you win the case, you could be entitled to a basic award and a compensatory award. The basic award is worked out in the same way as redundancy pay, using age along with weekly pay and years employed. The compensatory award is the amount of money you’ve missed out on by being dismissed.

To begin a claim for unfair dismissal, you should:

  1. Begin the claim within three months of dismissal.
  2. Contact ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) to inform them of the dismissal.
  3. Fill out an ET1 employment tribunal form with details about the unfair treatment.
  4. Prepare your case, potentially using the help of a solicitor.
  5. Attend the tribunal with evidence. You may choose to have legal representation also.

It is recommended you get professional advice before starting a claim for unfair dismissal. There are strict guidelines and time scales to keep to, and you need to provide enough proof to support your claim.

What is unfair dismissal?

Unfair dismissal is when you feel your employer hasn’t followed the law or your contractual agreement when letting you go from your job.

You can claim if you think the cause given for the dismissal was not the true reason, or was unfair or unwarranted, or if you believe the employer acted unfairly during the dismissal process.

What counts as unfair dismissal?

There are some reasons for dismissal that are automatically deemed unfair. You may have a strong case if you can prove you were dismissed because of:

  • Pregnancy
  • Family commitments – including paternity leave, adoption leave and time off for dependants
  • Acting as an employee representative or trade union representative
  • Joining a trade union, or refusing to join a trade union
  • Reasons relating to your working hours, such as being part time or fixed term
  • Reasons relating to your annual leave
  • Whistleblowing

You also can’t be dismissed because of any discrimination that's protected by law, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy
  • Religious beliefs
  • Sexual orientation

You may also have a case if you can show an employer acted unfairly during a dismissal, including:

  • Giving no or limited notice in cases other than gross misconduct
  • Failing to investigate any issues prior to dismissal
  • Failing to follow internal procedures
  • Not giving the employee a chance to offer their opinion about the situation
  • Offering the employee an unsuitable alternative role in the event of redundancy

If you want to claim for unfair dismissal because of any of the reasons above, having evidence to show that your employer didn’t treat you fairly is important to the success of your case.

What doesn’t count as unfair dismissal?

There are times where the employee might feel like they’ve been unfairly dismissed, but doesn’t have a case. These are:

  • Resignation
    If you resign from your job and it isn’t a case of constructive dismissal, you can’t claim for unfair dismissal. To understand the difference, read our guide to proving constructive dismissal - the process is slightly different from unfair dismissal.
  • Suspension with full pay
    If your employer suspends your role but continues to provide you with full pay, you can’t claim unfair dismissal.
  • Job offer withdrawal
    If you are offered a job role, but the employer changes their mind and withdraws the offer, you can’t claim unfair dismissal. However, if you left your previous role based on this job offer, and it was withdrawn for no solid, legal reason, you may be able to claim compensation.

Is there a qualifying period for eligibility?

You must have worked for your employer for a minimum period before being eligible to make a claim for unfair dismissal at a tribunal.

If you’re classed as an employee and started your job:

  • on or after 6 April 2012 - the qualifying period is normally 2 years
  • before 6 April 2012 - the qualifying period is normally 1 year
In Northern Ireland, the qualifying period is normally 1 year.

How to start a claim for unfair dismissal

To claim unfair dismissal, you’ll need to attend an employment tribunal. You might also be interested in reading our guide on how to take your employer to a tribunal, but the basic steps are:

  1. Contact ACAS
    The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service offers early conciliation, which you can choose to take or ignore. However, you must contact ACAS and inform it that you plan to take your employer to a tribunal.
  2. Submit the ET1 claim form
    You can complete and submit the ET1 form. It’s the first thing the board will read, so it should be clear, professional and accurate.
  3. Notice of Acknowledgement
    Once your form has been received, you’ll be sent a Notice of Acknowledgement. If you don’t receive one of these within a week of posting your EL1, contact the Central Office of Employment Tribunals, as it must be received within three months.
  4. Await your employer’s response
    They can choose to offer compensation immediately, or agree to the tribunal. If they agree, they’ll submit an ET3 form, which you will be sent before the hearing.
  5. Attend the hearing
    You’ll be sent a time and location for your hearing. This is usually within six months of your submission.

Will I have to pay for an unfair dismissal claim?

As of June 2017, there is no charge for employment tribunals

Looking for more help with an unfair dismissal?

The time, energy and expense that goes into an unfair dismissal tribunal hearing means you could benefit from getting the very best advice available to help you win your case.

Get in touch with us for impartial, confidential advice about your circumstances. Our employment law solicitors can help you to learn about what type of tribunal may best suit your situation, and will work to give you the best chance of winning.


Note: First4Lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances.

Get in touch today to discuss your requirements 08005677866

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