What is Unfair Dismissal?

Nobody wants to lose their job. When this happens, it can leave you in shock and with money worries. Sometimes, it is unfortunate that you lose your job. However, in some cases, it will be totally unfair and unmerited. This can open up the possibility of bringing your employer to a tribunal to seek reparations. In particular, these cases are known as unfair dismissal and constructive dismissal.

Have you Been Dismissed?

The first question to ask yourself is whether you have actually been dismissed from your job or not. For example, if your employer has ended your contract, this is a dismissal. If you have been chosen for redundancy or there has been a refusal to renew your contract, this is also a dismissal. It is important to note that these actions do not necessarily mean you have been unfairly dismissed. But we will get to this part later.

However, if you have been suspended or resigned, this is not dismissal. Normally, there will be evidence that you have been dismissed. For example, this may be an official termination letter or an email that has come from your boss.

What Is Your Employment Status?

In order to have been unfairly dismissed, you must have been dismissed, as well as be an employee. Therefore, you need to examine what your current employment status is. For example, you can be an employer, a work or self-employed. An employee can mean that you are in full-time or part-time employment.

If you are an agency worker, self-employed, a police officer or in the armed forces, you cannot claim unfair dismissal.

Have you Been Dismissed for an Unfair Reason?

You should always know why you are being dismissed as an employee. This reason should be stated by your employer. If you have worked at a company for two years or more, you have the right to obtain written confirmation of your dismissal and why it has happened. This can be in a letter or an email.

An Automatically Unfair Reason

There are certain dismissals that will be automatically unfair. Normally, this is if they are affecting your rights. You will be able to challenge this type of dismissal. The following are known as an automatically unfair reason for being dismissed:

  • You are pregnant
  • You wanted the minimum wage
  • You brought up a health and safety problem
  • You took part in trade union activities
  • You took part in whistleblowing


If you have been discriminated against, you will have been unfairly dismissed. For example, if you believe that you have lost your job due to the following reasons, you may have a case:

  • Being a man or a woman
  • Disabled
  • Transgender
  • Gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • Religious beliefs
  • Pregnant
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Age

Reasons that are Fair

Of course, there are going to be some reasons your employer has for dismissing you that will be classed as fair. For example, if you are not capable of doing your job, this reason can be fair. You may have a poor performance record or are failing at your job role duties. In addition, perhaps you have behaved badly in your job, such as being threatening or violent towards another team member. There are also other substantial reasons why you may be dismissed by your employer.

What is Constructive Dismissal?

Constructive dismissal or constructive unfair dismissal is when you are forced to resign from your job because of something your employer has done. Normally, the actions of your employer will be unreasonable. For example, this can include demoting you or refusing to pay you your wage. In addition, they might make unauthorised changes to your work or let other team members bully you.

The actions must make you feel like you have to resign. Before this happens, it is best to seek legal advice. Resignation is a huge step and it is best to be informed about constructive dismissal before taking this leap. It is not always easy to win a case like this at an employment tribunal. Therefore, independent legal advice is essential.

It is always best to raise the issue with your employer first. They may be some issues that can be resolved this way without having to leave your job. You can do this by speaking to a manager or somebody that is in charge. You can even consider making a formal complaint, which is also referred to as a grievance. This is a way to voice your concerns in writing and allow the employer time to process your complaint and how a resolution can be reached. This these approaches do not work, perhaps it is time to go down the road of legal advice. During an employment tribunal, the employee will have to show how their resignation was forced by the actions of their employer.