Q&As

Can an employee whose limited-term contract expires, and is not renewed, while she is on maternity leave claim unfair dismissal?

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Published on LexisPSL on 17/12/2018

The following Employment Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Can an employee whose limited-term contract expires, and is not renewed, while she is on maternity leave claim unfair dismissal?

Can an employee whose limited-term contract expires, and is not renewed, while she is on maternity leave claim unfair dismissal?

The right not to be unfairly dismissed is available to employees. The fact that an employee is on maternity leave makes no difference to their right to claim. Unfair dismissal requires that the employee has been dismissed. Where a limited-term contract terminates because the limiting event occurs without being renewed, eg the term in a fixed-term contract expires, that will amount to a ‘dismissal’ for the purpose of the right not to be unfairly dismissed.

For further information, see:

  1. Practice Notes:

    1. Definition of dismissal in unfair dismissal—Limited-term contracts

    2. Fixed-term employees—Ordinary unfair dismissal

  2. Harvey DI [601]–[700]

If there is a dismissal, the employer will be well-advised to ensure that:

  1. there is a potentially fair reason for dismissal, and

  2. in the circumstances the employer has acted reasonably in treating that reason as a sufficient reason for dismissal

The employer may be able to rely on redundancy as a potentially fair reason for dismissal if the statutory definition is met. For further information, see Practice Note: Definition of redundancy, in particular the section headed Redundancy payment entitlement, and fair reason for dismissal.

Alternatively, the expiry of a fixed-term contract can amount to ‘some other substantial reason’ for dismissal under section 98(1)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. For further information, see Practice Note: Reason for dismissal—some other

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