What constitutes a reasonable dismissal and do I have to accept it?

Richard gregory portrait.

Richard Gregory

Consultant Solicitor

Phone 01264 353411

Email rgregory@bsandi.co.uk

A job is not usually for life. People chop and change their careers, move to new employers, try a new line of work. But sometimes the decision to leave is not theirs, and when that happens it is usually worth checking that the dismissal was fair.

The law says that there are only certain grounds on which an employer should end an employee’s employment:


  • The employee is not capable of doing, or isn’t qualified to do, the job.
  • Conduct.
  • Redundancy.
  • Continuing to employ the employee would breach a statutory restriction.
  • There is ‘some other substantial reason’ that justifies dismissal.


They are known as the ‘potentially fair’ reasons for dismissal. As well as pinpointing one of those, an employer should follow a fair procedure and make sure that it is reasonable (taking account of their size and resources) to dismiss in the circumstances.

Employers can be caught out by any one of those stages, but procedure is a common pitfall. For example, if you were accused of stealing from the business then, broadly, your employer should tell you about the accusation, investigate it thoroughly, give you the chance to have your say, and, if you go on to be dismissed, allow you to appeal against that decision.

Employers who get these procedural steps, or another aspect of dismissal, wrong are vulnerable to a claim for unfair dismissal.

Not everyone is eligible to bring that claim; you must have worked for your employer for at least two years. However, in some situations dismissal will be considered to be automatically unfair (dismissing an employee because she is pregnant, for example), in which case length of service doesn’t usually matter.

We don’t expect our clients to know the ins and outs of unfair dismissal law; that’s our job. But some come to see us because they have a feeling that something about their dismissal was wrong. Where that hunch is correct, we’re able to help put things right – whether that’s getting them reinstated or, more commonly, negotiating or winning compensation.

So, we’ll leave you with three questions. If you have recently (within the last three months) been dismissed, ask yourself:

-          Was it for one of the potentially fair reasons?

-          Did the procedure feel fair?

-          Do you think that other employers, in your employer’s shoes, would have dismissed you?

If you can answer ‘no’ to one or more of the above statements, contact our Litigation Team who will be able to discuss your particular circumstances to see if you have a case, tel: 01264 353411, email: litigation@bsandi.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form, without obligation, and we will be in contact with you shortly.




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