Fair Reasons For Dismissal

What Are Fair Reasons For Dismissal?

Fair Reasons For Dismissal

If you have been an employee for at least 2-years, then your employer can only lawfully dismiss you if they have a fair reason for doing so. There are 5 fair reasons for dismissal. If you are unfairly dismissed, you may be able to make a legal claim against your employer. We look at the main five fair reasons for dismissal and what to do if you think you have been unfairly dismissed.

If you have been dismissed with less than 2-years of service, please see other information on our website, as there may be other claims that apply.

At Toner Legal, we deal solely with employment law on behalf of individuals, meaning we have exceptional expertise in representing employees in unfair dismissal cases. We know that dealing with dismissal can be stressful and upsetting and we will ensure that you have the support and representation you need in dealing with your employer.

Five potentially fair reasons for dismissal

If your employer wishes to dismiss you and you have worked for them for two years or longer, they must have fair grounds for this and follow a fair dismissal process.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out five reasons that can be used in establishing that dismissal is fair. These are:

  1. Conduct
  2. Capability
  3. Redundancy
  4. Illegality
  5. Some other substantial reason

1. Conduct

The level of misconduct is relevant when considering whether it is fair to dismiss an employee. A single minor act of misconduct is not usually a fair reason for dismissal. Repeated minor misconduct could be a fair reason, but generally, your employer would be expected to issue a warning first.

Some misconduct is serious enough to warrant dismissal after only one event, such as theft, drug use, violence, or dishonesty.

You should have the opportunity to put your side of what has happened before you are dismissed. When looking at misconduct dismissals, the employment tribunal will consider if the employer believed the employee was guilty of misconduct if that belief was held on reasonable ground, and if the employer followed a reasonable investigation.

2. Capability

If your employer has concerns over your ability to perform the job you are required to do under the terms of your contract, they should initially see whether there is anything they can do to help you. For example, they could provide training or put in place a performance improvement plan with a mentor to assist you.

It is particularly important that help is provided and adjustments made if the reason for inadequate performance relates to a disability. Capability dismissals cover both performance and ill health.

3. Redundancy

If your employer has roles that are no longer needed, then they need to follow the correct process in making someone redundant. This includes putting the right employees in the selection pool and using a fair system for selecting who will go.

If your role is no longer needed, then other employees whose job you could do should also be included in the selection pool.

You have a right to know how you have been chosen. For example, if your employer has used a scored selection matrix, you should be told your score.

For more information on your rights, see our redundancy page.

4. Illegality

If doing your job would mean breaking the law in some way or breaching legal regulations, then your employer can fairly dismiss you. For example, if you are a driver and you have lost your driving license, then you are at risk of dismissal if your employer does not have any other work for you.

5. Some other substantial reason

This is a wide category and includes a range of reasons. However, they must still be fair and your employer should be able to justify their action.

Examples include:

  • Continuing in your job would cause reputational damage to your employer’s business, for example, if you had done something that appeared on the news in a negative light
  • If you refuse to work with another individual or there are difficulties with another individual which means you cannot work together or the situation is damaging the business
  • A key client or customer refuses to work with you and this could cause a loss of custom to your employer

What should I do if I am unfairly dismissed?

As well as having a fair reason for dismissal, your employer must also follow the correct procedure. If you believe that you have been unfairly dismissed or your employer has not used the right process, you should speak to an expert unfair dismissal lawyer promptly.

If you ask us to help, we will go through what has happened and advise you of your rights as well as give you an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

For more information, see our unfair dismissal page.

Other Prohibited Reasons For Dismissal

There are also “prohibited” reasons for dismissal, which if applied, often mean the dismissal was “automatically” unfair. There is also no requirement to have at least 2-years of service. Some common examples of this as dismissals because of discrimination, health and safety issues, or because you made protected disclosures (whistleblowing).

We outline more on this subject in our article, unfair dismissal with less than 2 years of service.


This blog is for information purposes only. Nothing should be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice and nothing written should be construed as legal advice or perceived as creating a lawyer-client relationship.

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