Making a claim for wrongful dismissal

This is a short information page about making a claim for wrongful dismissal. The aim of this page is to provide details of a possible employment claim which doesn’t require a claimant to have been employed for a minimum of two years.

It forms part of our information section on looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering and links to an information page we have on spent and unspent convictions and employment law.

Introduction

Employees in the UK are protected in a number of ways from being treated unfairly, discriminated against or unlawfully dismissed.

The vast majority of employee rights in the UK come from the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Equality Act 2010. A criminal record is not classed as a protected characteristic of the Equality Act and can’t therefore be relied upon if your claim is based on discrimination because of an unspent caution or conviction.

Many employment claims will require you to have been employed for at least two years (if you started work after 6 April 2012); 1 year if you started before this. However, there are some claims that can be made which don’t have a two-year service requirement. One of those is wrongful dismissal, which is the focus of this page.

Wrongful dismissal

When can you make a claim?

A claim for wrongful dismissal can arise when an employer breaches the terms of an employee’s contract; for example if an employer fails to honour a notice period or terminates a fixed term contract before the contractual end date.

An employer may be justified in terminating your contract without notice if it is found that you have committed gross misconduct. Determining whether misconduct was severe enough to warrant dismissal without notice can be quite case specific.

However, if for example your contract was terminated for failing to disclose a conviction which an employer was not entitled to know about (for example your employer found out about your spent conviction due to carrying out an ineligible criminal record check or reading information about you online), then you may have a case for wrongful dismissal.

If your contract is terminated as a result of your employer discovering details of an unspent conviction which you didn’t previously disclose, it’s likely they will rely on ‘gross misconduct’ as their reason for sacking you. However, this isn’t always the case and it may still be worth you seeking legal advice.

If you have a notice period of less than one month then wrongful dismissal is generally not worth pursuing.

What can I claim?

The downside of any claim for wrongful dismissal is that damages are limited to the length of your notice period. You wouldn’t be able to claim for loss of earnings beyond your notice period.

Claims can be pursued in either the Employment Tribunal or County Court.

Why should I make a claim?

Despite having a spent conviction which wouldn’t be disclosed on a basic criminal record check, employers may become aware of it in other ways. When this happens, they are often loath to disregard it and will terminate someone’s contract.

Although the amount of money you can claim for wrongful dismissal is limited, any amount is better than nothing and may help while you search for a new job. For many people, money isn’t as important as just having an employer accept that they’ve acted unlawfully.

Getting help

Making a claim for wrongful dismissal can be quite complex. It can be done by an individual, but you may also want to seek advice from an employment law specialist.

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of these organisations listed below can be found here

  • ACAS – An organisation specialising in preventing and resolving employment disputes
  • Citizens Advice Bureau – Provide practical up-to-date information on a wide range of topics including employment rights.
  • The Law Society – The Law Society have a section on their website covering ‘problems at work’ together with links to specialist employment solicitors.
  • Employment tribunal forms and guidance – A selection of claims forms and guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found on spent and unspent convictions and employment law
  2. To discuss this issue – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.
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