Unfair dismissal versus redundancy

If you think you’ve been the victim of unfair dismissal, such as constructive dismissal, you need to check if you have a case. You might be able to claim against unfair redundancy or dismissal.

What is redundancy?

Redundancy happens when your job disappears. It’s not the same as being dismissed from your job for other reasons.

When you’re made redundant, you’ve done nothing wrong and no one is questioning your ability to do your job.

Employers usually make people redundant because they need to:

  • cut costs
  • close down or relocate, or
  • because the work you do is no longer needed.

What is a fair redundancy process?

If compulsory redundancies are necessary, your employer must be fair in deciding who is going to lose their jobs.

When deciding, they might consider some or all the following:

  • standards of work
  • attendance and disciplinary records
  • any redundancy procedure agreed with your union, if you have one
  • skills and experience – this can sometimes lead to people having to re-apply for their job.

Your employer must also:

  • give you adequate warning of what’s happening
  • consult with you about why you’re being selected, and
  • consider alternatives to redundancy, including alternative employment for you where this is available.

What is unfair dismissal?

Unfair dismissal occurs when your employer hasn’t followed a fair redundancy process.

Employers should always speak to you directly about why you’ve been selected, and look at any alternatives to redundancy.

If this hasn’t happened, you might have been unfairly dismissed.

Plus, your employer must not have an unfair reason for selecting you for redundancy, for example:

  • age
  • race
  • gender
  • religion
  • disability
  • pregnancy
  • sexual orientation
  • being a member of a trade union
  • working part-time or on a fixed-term contract.

Do you believe that your employer hasn’t followed a fair process, or suspect you’ve been chosen for an unfair reason? Then you might be able to claim unfair dismissal at a tribunal if you have worked there for two years or more.

In this situation, your employer might offer you a compromise agreement.

This is a cash sum in exchange for giving up your right to go to a tribunal.

Your employer must pay for you to get independent legal advice so that you understand what rights you’ll be giving up.

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How to appeal against unfair dismissal

Step one – appeal in writing

If you think your redundancy is unfair, firstly appeal against your employer’s decision.

Check your contract or staff handbook for how to do this and make sure you watch out for any time limits.

Explain why you think you’ve been unfairly chosen and what you want your employer to do to put the situation right.

If you have a trade union or employee representative, you can ask them to help you with this.

Step two – talk to your trade union representative

If you’re not happy with your employer’s response, talk to your trade union or employee representative, if you have one.

They might be better at arguing the case on your behalf.

Step three – early conciliation

If negotiations with your employer don’t work and you think you have a strong case, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Before you can do this, you must notify Acas. They’ll offer to approach your employer and try to settle the case through early conciliation.

Neither you nor your employer has to agree to this. You must notify Acas as soon as possible because strict time limits apply for making a claim.

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Step four – consider an employment tribunal

What if you can’t settle your claim through early conciliation, and still think you have a strong case? Then you can take your employer to an employment tribunal.

From July 2017, there are no fees for going to an employment tribunal in the UK.

For advice on this, talk to your trade union.

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Staff in, staff out

Your employer is legally entitled to employ new staff, even if they’re making you redundant.

They might employ someone to do a different job where you work or to do your job in a different location.

If you think you should have been offered the job, check your contract, then get advice from your union representative or from a solicitor.

For more redundancy advice

  • For free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues in England, Scotland and Wales, go to the Acas website
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, for an impartial and confidential employment relations service, visit the Labour Relations Agency website
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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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