Can I bring a claim for unfair dismissal after working for a company for 6 months?

The answer is usually no. The general right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal is not available until the employee has at least two years continuous employment. However, if you can show that you have been dismissed for one of a number of specific reasons (e.g. related to pregnancy, health and safety etc) the two year rule does not apply and you might be able to bring a claim.

What is the maximum level of compensation recoverable in unfair dismissal claims?

If you are successful, you are likely to receive compensation split into two categories as follows:

  • Basic award - this is calculated in a similar way to statutory redundancy payments. The level of the award depends on your age and length of service. The current maximum (from 6th April 2014) is 1t3,920)
  • Compensatory award - this award is intended to compensate the employee for the loss suffered as a result of being unfairly dismissed. It will depend on a number of factors including the likelihood of obtaining another job after dismissal. The current maximum (from 6th April 2014) is £ 76,574 (capped at 52 week's pay if less). The maximum level of both of these awards tends to increase every year.
  • In certain circumstances, such as dismissal for health and safety reasons, there is no limit to the compensatory award.
I have been bullied at work by my Supervisor. What can I do?

Implied into every contract of employment is a term stating that there is a relationship of mutual trust and confidence between employees and employers. If the employer acts in a way which is likely to damage or destroy this relationship, they will be in breach of the term. If that breach is serious, it will amount to a fundamental breach of contract. This entitles the employee, under certain circumstances, to resign and claim that they have been unfairly constructively dismissed. Before taking this step, the employee should take legal advice and they must usually bring a grievance against their employer to see whether the problem can be sorted out. In certain circumstances there may also be a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and/or the Equality Act 2010.

Can I return to work part time after maternity leave?

All employees with 6 months continuous employment who have children under the age of 17 are able to make a formal request for part time work. The employer is then obliged to consider the request at a meeting and then make a decision. The employer is only able to refuse the request for a number of specified reasons. If the employer fails to go through the necessary process, a claim can be brought in the Employment Tribunal. If the request is made by a woman returning from maternity leave, unless the reason for refusal is a very good one, it is sometimes possible to bring a claim against them for indirect sex discrimination. This could lead to an action for significant compensation.

Can my terms and conditions be altered if the company I work for sells its assets?

When a company's assets are purchased, the employees of the old company are automatically transferred to the employment of the new company with the same terms and conditions (apart from pension provisions). If your new employer attempts to change your terms without a very good reason, it may be open to you to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal. If you are dismissed, you may be able to claim automatic unfair dismissal if you can show that the dismissal was related to the transfer. You might also be able to argue that certain proposed changes are void and unenforceable. This is a complicated area of law and specialist advice should be taken as soon as the issue arises.

If I join a competitor can I contact my previous customers?

If you have signed a contract of employment with your old employer which included a clause purporting to restrict your activities after termination of that employment, they may be able to enforce the terms and stop you breaching them. This could include a clause preventing you from soliciting or dealing with their customers. However, unless the clause is considered to be reasonable by the court, it will not be enforceable and you will be allowed to continue as if the clause does not exist. Again, specialist advice should be taken at an early stage to protect your position.

Employment Tribunal

What is an employment tribunal?

Employment tribunals are independent bodies which resolve disputes between employees and employers about employment rights. The process is similar to court proceedings and a fee is usually paid. The employee is normally required to submit certain details to ACAS prior to bringing the claim in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. This procedure is called "Early Conciliation". If the dispute is not settled and a claim is defended, a hearing will be arranged. At the end of the hearing the Judge comes to a decision, which he or she will set out in writing along with the reasons for the decision. They will also state the amount of any compensation and /or costs to be paid.

If a party is unhappy with the decision they may be able to appeal against the judgement or ask for a reconsideration.

What are the time limits for taking my claim to a tribunal?

You must normally do this within three months of the date of the events you are complaining about. However, the deadline may be extended in certain circumstances. If your claim is about a redundancy payment, you have six months to take it to the tribunal.

What information do I need to help my case?
  • keep all correspondence with your employer
  • keep notes of telephone calls and meetings
  • your employment contract
  • if you are still in employment, get a copy of your firm's procedures/handbooks
  • if you have lost your job, keep records of interviews and job applications to prove you are actively seeking work. If you cannot show that you have been actively seeking work, you may get less compensation
How can a solicitor help me in preparing for a tribunal?

It's important to use a specialist employment solicitor who is experienced in handling employment tribunal claims. The solicitor will prepare your case, including:

  • communications with your employer
  • completion of your application to the tribunal
  • collection of relevant documents
  • preparation of witness statements
  • instructing a barrister if necessary

In many cases your solicitor may help you settle your case with your employer without needing to proceed to a tribunal hearing.

Will I need to give evidence at the tribunal?

In almost every case you will need to give evidence at your tribunal hearing and will be cross examined by your employer's representative. We can help you prepare for this.

How long will it take until the tribunal hearing?

Most tribunal hearings take place about six to nine months after the application form has been completed.