This factsheet was last updated in April 2014.
What is dismissal?
Dismissal of an employee occurs when:
- the employer terminates the contract, either with or without giving notice
- a fixed term contract ends and is not renewed
- the employee leaves, with or without giving notice, in circumstances in which they are entitled to do so because of the employer’s conduct.
According to Acas, the independent conciliation service, among the commonest reasons for dismissal are misconduct, inability to do the job and redundancy.
A dismissal will normally be ‘fair’ provided the employer has one of the five specific reasons for the dismissal (see below) and has acted ‘reasonably’ in carrying it out. When somebody is dismissed, they often say they will claim 'unfair' or 'wrongful' dismissal. The terms are often used interchangeably, particularly in media reports, but in fact they are entirely different and arise from very different concepts.
Wrongful dismissal occurs when the employer terminates the contract of employment, and in doing so breaches the contract. The most common example is terminating a contract without giving the contractual notice period. The period of notice is a matter for agreement between the parties, but is subject to minimum periods prescribed by law. Wrongful dismissal claims will generally be for the payment and benefits due for the notice period. CIPD members can find out more about Wrongful dismissal in our law FAQs.
Previous governments have given employees additional statutory protection in addition to that given by the law of contract. The main example of this is the right of an employee not to be unfairly dismissed - which introduces a concept of 'fairness' into most dismissals.
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- What is dismissal?
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