June 6, 2023
In most cases, the time limit for unfair dismissal claims via tribunal is three months, minus one day from the termination of employment (the last day your former employer paid you). However, you can extend this limit once you notify ACAS of your claim.
Unfair dismissal is a legal term that means your employer terminated your contract without following proper procedures or giving a valid, legally permissible reason. Examples include not liking you personally, not wanting someone of your gender, or not wanting someone of your age. Such reasons may also give rise to a claim for unlawful discrimination.
In the UK, employers may only dismiss staff for the following reasons:-
- Lack of capability – you lack the skills, qualifications, health or performance to carry out your job adequately.
- Poor conduct – your behaviour at work is poor, meaning you broke the rules, committed misconduct, or were dishonest.
- Redundancy – your employer no longer requires someone to do your job because they are closing down or need fewer staff.
- Statutory restriction – you can no longer perform your job for legal reasons, perhaps because of new legislation
- Other substantial reasons – your employer no longer trusts you, or they wish to reorganise the business
Where you have at least 2 years’ continuous service, they must also follow the proper dismissal procedure, including:-
- Telling you why they want to dismiss you.
- Holding a meeting to discuss the issue where you are allowed a trade union official or another colleague to accompany you.
- Giving you a written notice of dismissal explaining your right to appeal
- Holding an appeal meeting with you if they request one.
Dismissal procedures differ between firms. However, companies must comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. If they don’t, you may receive more compensation from an Employment Tribunal.
If you believe your employer unfairly dismissed you, you need to act fast to protect your rights. In the UK, you can bring an unfair dismissal claim three months from the effective date of termination (EDT) of your employment contract. The EDT is either:-
- The last day of your notice period
- The final day of employment if your employer does not give you notice
There are some exceptions to this rule. For instance:-
- You resign without notice due to constructive dismissal
- You are dismissed with immediate effect but want to appeal
- Your employer dismisses you during a probationary period or fixed-term contract
We can explain what happens to your EDT in these cases and the time frame you have to make a claim. We can also help you extend your statutory EDT if you were ill (and unable to bring a claim within three months) or your employer deliberately misled you on your rights. The Employment Tribunal will only grant extensions under “exceptional circumstances” at their discretion, which is why working with legal professionals is essential.
Generally, you should not bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal immediately. Instead, you should contact ACAS. They offer services that help you and your employer settle without going to court. Conciliation processes can last for several weeks and pause the time limit for bringing a claim. Again, you must contact ACAS within three months of your EDT in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim. ACAS will issue a certificate which is required when you submit your claim to the Employment Tribunal.
You have several options after an unfair dismissal. First, you can appeal the decision internally through your employer’s appeals process if your employer has given you the right to appeal. Most reputable firms describe how this works in their employee handbooks.
Another option is to bring your claim within the time limit for Employment Tribunals. Legal professionals can offer unfair dismissal advice and seek compensation or reinstatement on your behalf.
The option you choose will depend on your situation, which you can weigh up with your solicitor. Pursuing a legal case becomes more likely when:-
- Your potential compensation is higher
- You have more compelling evidence to support your case against your employer
- The costs are small compared to the potential rewards
- You aren’t worried about the time and stress involved in going through the tribunal process
- You feel aggrieved at the way you have been treated by your employer
- You are likely to have ongoing loss of income as a result of the unfair dismissal
Unfair dismissal cases can be complex and challenging for everyone involved. That’s why it’s essential to work with us. Do you have an unfair dismissal case that you need help with? Get in touch with our employment law experts who will be happy to help.