What is the difference between wrongful dismissal and unfair dismissal?

Wrongful dismissal and unfair dismissal are two entirely different concepts. A wrongful dismissal is a dismissal in breach of contract and the only relevant considerations for a court or tribunal hearing such a claim will be the contractual obligations of the employer. There is no length of service required for a breach of contract claim, which can be brought either to the county court or High Court or, where the claim arises out of or is outstanding on termination of employment and its value does not exceed £25,000, to an employment tribunal. Wrongful dismissal occurs most commonly where an employer dismisses an employee without notice or with insufficient notice under his or her contract of employment. Damages awarded usually equate to the value of the employee's pay and benefits during the period of notice that the employee would have been given, had the contract been terminated lawfully.

The right not to be dismissed unfairly, on the other hand, is a statutory rather than a contractual right. The determination of whether a dismissal is fair or unfair is dependent on: the employer's reason for dismissal (and whether or not it was one of the potentially fair reasons listed in s.98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996); whether or not the employer acted reasonably in treating this reason as sufficient to justify dismissing the employee; and whether or not it followed a fair procedure. Except in defined circumstances an employee must have a minimum of two years' continuous service to qualify for the right to bring a claim of unfair dismissal, which can be brought to an employment tribunal only, not the county court or High Court. Compensation is made up of a basic award, usually the same as a statutory redundancy payment, and a compensatory award, which takes into account future loss of earnings and other losses caused by the dismissal.