There are various reasons why your employer might dismiss you. The law distinguishes between them depending on whether they are considered fair or unfair reasons for dismissal. You have a right to have a written statement explaining why you have been dismissed. Regardless of the reason for your dismissal, your employer must also act fairly in the procedure they follow. If they don't the dismissal may be unfair and an Industrial Tribunal can increase any award for unfair dismissal by up to 50%.
You normally need at least a year's service before you can claim unfair dismissal.
Your employer must have a good reason for dismissing you, and has to show that the reason is genuine and justifies your dismissal. The five potentially fair reasons for dismissing an employee are:
This usually means you've broken one or more of the terms of your employment, e.g.:
Your employer should follow a fair disciplinary procedure before dismissing you for misconduct and at the minimum, they should comply with the statutory disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures set out in the Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004 ('the SDDG procedures'). The Labour Relations Agency has produced advice on handling.
This means that you can't do your job properly (including because you don't have the right qualifications) or aren't performing to the required standard, e.g. because:
Your employer should make sure you're given adequate training to do your job. If you're performing poorly, you should usually be warned that your work isn't satisfactory and given a chance to improve before any action is taken.
If you are persistently off sick (or long-term sick), your employer should normally look at any alternatives before deciding to dismiss you. For example, they might have to consider whether the job itself is making you sick and needs to be changed.
You should be aware that you can still be dismissed if you are off sick.
Your employer would normally be expected to allow a reasonable amount of time for you to recover from your illness. The actual amount will depend on things like:
If you have a disability (which may include long-term illness), your employer has a legal duty to try to find a way round the problem by making 'reasonable adjustments' to how and/or where you work. Dismissal because of a disability may be unlawful discrimination. For more information, see our '' section.
This means there's no more, or not enough work for you. It might occur if:
Your employer would be expected to select you fairly, consider offering you alternative work, and to consult you properly before making you redundant. For more information, see our '' section.
Your employer can dismiss you if continuing to employ you would break the law – for example, if you're a driver and you lose your driving licence. They would be expected to try and find other suitable work for you before choosing to dismiss you.
The emphasis here is on 'substantial'- it applies to a situation where your employer has an overwhelming reason why you must be dismissed. They would be expected to look at any alternatives before choosing to dismiss. Reasons that have previously fallen into this category include:
Employers must follow the statutory dismissal procedures before they can lawfully dismiss an employee who has 12 months or more of service. If they don't, the dismissal is automatically unfair.
Even if you don't have 12 months' service, it will be automatically unfair if they sack you because, for example, you:
It is good practice for an employer to give reasons for dismissal. Most employees have the legal right to a written statement from their employers, giving the reasons why they've been dismissed, or why their fixed-term contracts haven't been renewed. You usually need to ask for this (verbally or in writing), and your employer should give it to you within 14 days of you asking.
A woman who's dismissed while pregnant or on maternity leave is always entitled to written reasons, irrespective of her length of service and whether she asks for them or not. The same applies to someone who's dismissed while on adoption leave.
If you have this right and your employer won't give you the reason for your dismissal, or if you don't think the reason given is the real one, you can make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal. You might first use your company's grievance procedure to make a complaint (but you don't have to). People who aren't entitled to a written reason are:
If you think your dismissal was unfair, you can consider claiming unfair dismissal.