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 Supreme Court has granted Morrisons permission to appeal the Court of Appeal's decision in WM Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various claimants.
Updated to reflect an increase in the maximum unfair dismissal compensatory award, with effect from 6 April 2019.
Updated to reflect an increase in the amount of the basic award, with effect from 6 April 2019.
Updated to reflect the increase in compensation limits in cases of unfair dismissal, effective from 6 April 2019.
In Wilko Retail Ltd v Gaskell and another, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that an employment tribunal applied the wrong approach when assessing the reasonableness of the employer's decision to dismiss two employees for breaching its signing in and out policy.
A table summarising the award limits and amounts payable under employment legislation in Northern Ireland, effective from 6 April 2019.
Updated to reflect an increase in the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal, with effect from 6 April 2019.
In Elliott v RMS Cash Solutions Ltd, a Northern Ireland tribunal held that a cash transit firm fairly dismissed an employee whose Snapchat posts revealed a colleague's personal details. The posts increased the risk of "tiger kidnapping", which involves staff or their families being kidnapped to force staff to help commit a crime.
HR and legal information and guidance relating to unfair dismissal.