What is an "automatic unfair dismissal"?

If an employee is dismissed for certain reasons, set out in legislation, the dismissal will be automatically unfair.

The automatically unfair reasons for dismissal include:

  • family-related reasons, such as pregnancy, maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave;
  • refusing to give up a right under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833), for example the right to a rest period;
  • whistleblowing;
  • taking action to enforce the right to be paid the national minimum wage;
  • trade union membership or activities; and
  • a TUPE transfer (where the reason is not an economic, technical or organisational reason entailing changes in the workforce).

If an employee brings an employment tribunal claim, and establishes that the dismissal was for one of the automatically unfair reasons, the employer will not be able to defend the claim. Employees do not require the usual minimum two years' service to be able to bring a claim for most of the automatically unfair reasons for dismissal (the exception is where the employee is dismissed because of a TUPE transfer).

For a full list of the automatically unfair reasons for dismissal, see Quick reference > Automatically unfair reasons for dismissal.