Unfair dismissal cases: when and how to claim


An unfair dismissal is a termination of employment by an employer, with or without notice of termination, in which either:

  • The reason for dismissal is one that is automatically unfair
  • The reason for dismissal is neither one of the four statutory fair reasons nor falls into the category of some ‘other substantial reason’
  • The employer did not act reasonably in making the decision to dismiss or follow a fair procedure

The key point is that to be able to claim unfair dismissal you must have been working for your employer for two years, unless the claim is for 'automatically unfair' reasons. These are listed below.

Automatically unfair reasons for dismissal

If your employer dismissed you for any of the following reasons, you may have an automatically unfair dismissal claim:

  • Dismissals on grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, and disability
  • Dismissals connected with pregnancy or maternity
  • Dismissals related to trade union membership
  • Dismissals for asserting any statutory right (i.e. a right given by legislation), such as a request for a written statement of particulars of your employment, or complaining about health and safety

The four* statutory fair reasons for dismissal under the Employment Rights Act are those based on:

  • Capability or qualifications
  • Conduct
  • Valid redundancy
  • In order not to breach a statutory requirement

* After October 2011 there was no longer a default retirement age.

If your reason for dismissal does not fit into any of these categories you may have an unfair dismissal claim. Additionally, the reason may be able to be categorised as some ‘other substantial reason’ that justifies the dismissal.

What to do next

If you think you have been unfairly dismissed, you may consider raising a grievance or negotiating with your employer; considering whether mediation, conciliation or arbitration with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) might be suitable; or making an unfair dismissal claim to an employment tribunal.

Dismissed employees may complain to an employment tribunal if they have at least 24 months' service at their place of work. Automatically unfair dismissals do not require the 24 months' qualifying service.


Do you believe you have been unfairly dismissed? Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist employment solicitor free of charge, who meets your requirements. Please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.


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