Unlawful dismissal


Unlawful dismissal, also known as wrongful dismissal, is an employment-law term which describes situations in which an employee has been sacked for reasons that are not lawfully enforceable.

Distinction from unfair dismissal

You can find out more about the legal background on our unfair dismissal pages.

Whether or not a dismissal is unfair depends upon a great many factors, both subjective and objective. If it is proved, then it is possible to claim tortious damages, that is, compensation for the money lost by the employee as a result of losing their job. If they have not found new employment quickly, this can be a very large sum.

By contrast, unlawful dismissal is essentially a contractual claim. Most employment contracts can only be terminated if certain conditions are met, usually the provision of a notice period. If an employee is forced to leave their job without serving notice, but the dismissal was not otherwise unfair, they may claim compensation in lieu of the notice. Depending on their contract, this may be anything from a week’s pay to several month’s wages.

Advantages of unlawful dismissal claims

Ordinarily, people will choose to pursue unfair dismissal claims if possible. They are much more likely to result in significant compensation and consequently it is easier to find solicitors prepared to offer convenient funding arrangements such as contingency fees. However, there are some circumstances where unlawful dismissal might be the preferred claim.

The most common reason is lack of qualification for unfair dismissal. Under the current law, most cases for unfair dismissal can only be brought after the employee has worked for their employer for two years continuously. If they have not served this time at the point they were dismissed, unlawful dismissal may be their only option.

It is also worth bearing in mind that unlawful dismissal is a much easier claim to prove since it relies only on contractual provisions. It is usually pretty clear from the outset that a notice period was not offered and all that may be required is to show that the employee should not have been summarily dismissed. If they were entitled to a lengthy notice period, it might make more financial sense to opt for the quicker case, to avoid amassing prohibitive legal fees.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on unlawful dismissal, Caven can put you in touch with a local employment solicitor free of charge. Please call us on 0808 1597 703 or complete the web-form above to speak to an advisor.

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