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 include information on Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd, in which the Court of Appeal held that the employer was vicariously liable for a managing director's assault of an employee during a drinking session after the work Christmas party.
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.
In Dibble v Falzon and Falzon t/a The Anne Arms, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that there were fundamental flaws in a tribunal decision that a pub worker was fairly dismissed over CCTV footage of her taking money out of a bar till.
In Talon Engineering Ltd v Smith, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that an employer's refusal to postpone a disciplinary hearing for two weeks to allow the employee's union official to accompany her made her dismissal unfair.
A nurse who set himself on fire and died after being dismissed from his job was "treated unfairly", according to an independent investigation.
In Patel v Folkestone Nursing Home Ltd, the Court of Appeal held that the effect of a contractual right of appeal against dismissal is that a successful appeal revives the contract and extinguishes the original dismissal.
In Bluebird Buses Ltd v Borowicki, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld an employment tribunal's findings of unfair and wrongful dismissal in relation to a bus driver whose bus became stranded after he drove it into a patch of flooded road.
HR and legal information and guidance relating to unfair dismissal.