Reason for dismissal—general
Reason for dismissal—general

The following Employment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Reason for dismissal—general
  • Determining the reason for dismissal
  • Potentially fair reasons
  • Automatically unfair reasons
  • Determining whether the employer acted reasonably—generally
  • Determining whether the employer acted reasonably—human rights issues

Once it is established that a claimant has the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim—in other words, that they were an employee, they were dismissed, the claim was presented in time (and the early conciliation requirement has been complied with, where applicable) and they have the requisite continuous employment (see Definition of dismissal in unfair dismissal, Entitlement to claim unfair dismissal, Time limits for presenting employment tribunal claims and The early conciliation requirement), it will generally be for the employer to show for the purposes of section 98(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996):

  1. what the reason or, if there was more than one, the principal reason was for dismissing the employee, and

  2. that it was a potentially fair reason for dismissal (see below)

If the employer is unable to satisfy the tribunal that the reason for dismissal was potentially fair, the dismissal will be unfair. If the employer does establish a potentially fair reason for dismissal, the tribunal will, under ERA 1996, s 98(4), consider whether the employer acted reasonably or unreasonably in treating that reason as sufficient to justify dismissal, having regard to all of the circumstances of the case, including the employer's size and administrative resources. Equity and the substantial merits of the case will be taken into account (see below).

Determining the reason