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
In Pazur v Lexington Catering Services Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that a kitchen porter had been subjected to a detriment when he was threatened with dismissal after he refused to return to work following a breach of his right to a rest break.
A table listing the unfair dismissal awards made by employment tribunals in 2018/19.
In Upton-Hansen Architects Ltd v Gyftaki, the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the tribunal decision that the employee's suspension was in breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. The employee was constructively dismissed and, in the absence of a potentially fair reason, the dismissal was unfair.
In Phoenix House Ltd v Stockman, the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the tribunal decision that the covert recording of a confidential meeting was not a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. The EAT gave guidance on the factors that may justify such a recording.
Updated to reflect that the Supreme Court allowed the appeal in Tillman v Egon Zehnder Ltd.
In Kelly v Royal Mail Group Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that a long-serving employee's dismissal for frequent absences in accordance with the employer's attendance policy was harsh but fair.
In Kuteh v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, the Court of Appeal held that the NHS trust fairly dismissed a Christian nurse for initiating inappropriate conversations about religion with patients in breach of a lawful management instruction.
In Atherton v Bensons Vending Ltd, an employment tribunal held that a small employer fairly dismissed an employee who made a personal attack on the managing director on Facebook. However, the claimant's wrongful dismissal was upheld because the employer could not show that his behaviour was so serious that it was entitled to dismiss him without notice pay.
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.
HR and legal information and guidance relating to unfair dismissal.