Editor's message: The right not to be unfairly dismissed is probably the most important statutory right that employees have.
To prevent your organisation falling foul of the legislation, you need to remember that there are only five fair reasons for dismissal - conduct, capability, redundancy, contravention of a statutory duty/restriction, and some other substantial reason. Before dismissing an employee, you therefore need to make sure that you have a potentially fair reason. However, you also need to be able to show that you acted reasonably in treating the reason as sufficient for dismissal, and that you followed a fair process. In a redundancy situation, the latter would include ensuring proper consultation and selection procedures, while a misconduct or performance dismissal would require sufficient warning (in most cases), proper investigation and evidence, and the right to be accompanied at hearings.
Be aware too that there are some reasons for dismissal that are automatically unfair, including where a dismissal is connected to rights around working time, family-friendly leave or the minimum wage. And, while an employee must normally have at least two years' service to bring an unfair dismissal claim, in the majority of areas of automatically unfair dismissal, this minimum service requirement does not apply.
There is no doubt that the tribunal fees regime resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of unfair dismissal claims. However, initial figures following the removal of tribunal fees have shown a dramatic increase, and employers should expect this upward trend to continue.
Stephen Simpson, principal employment law editor
Updated to reflect that the European Court of Human Rights held a Grand Chamber hearing in López Ribalda and others v Spain on 28 November 2018.
In George v London Borough of Brent, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the employer's failure to comply with a contractual obligation to offer a redundant employee a trial period for a possible alternative role was likely to render the dismissal unfair.
An IT manager at an NHS trust has been awarded £1m in compensation by an employment tribunal after he was unfairly dismissed.
A woman with a long-term eye condition, who lost her job at a food preparation firm after being asked to peel onions, has won her case for unfair dismissal at an industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland.
Laurie Anstis takes us through how to avoid unfair dismissals when undertaking redundancy exercises.
In Hawkes v Ausin Group (UK) Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the employer's failure to hold a meeting with a reservist employee, before making the decision to dismiss, did not make the dismissal for some other substantial reason unfair.
In East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust v Levy, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that an employee's letter of notice to her department did not amount to a resignation from the respondent's employment because the wording used was ambiguous.
A table listing the unfair dismissal awards made by employment tribunals in 2017/18.
Updated to include information on Talon Engineering Ltd v Smith, concerning the employer's refusal to postpone a disciplinary hearing to allow the employee to be accompanied.
HR and legal information and guidance relating to unfair dismissal.