Useful information about employment disputes

In employment disputes we strongly urge that you seek advice from the legal helpline at the outset to understand your rights and what you should do to try and resolve the dispute. However, below is some information which you may find helpful when considering your rights. You should note that the law in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands may differ from the below. If you believe that your case may fall within one of these jurisdictions, please contact the Legal Advice Line for advice.

Index of contents

Time Limits

  • In the case of dismissal claims in the Employment Tribunal you have three months minus one day from the date your contract of employment came to an end.

    For example if you were made dismissed unfairly on 24th April you would have until 23rd July to lodge your claim.
  • In the case of claims not relating to loss of employment you have 3 months minus one day from the date of the incident complained of or the date of the last incident if your case relates to a series of incidences.

    For example if you were subjected to racial abuse by your employer on 12th May, 24th May and the 3rd June you would have until the 2nd September to lodge your claim with the tribunal (this is because it is 3 months, minus one day, from the last incident of racial discrimination).
  • For some claims in the Employment Tribunal, for example for a redundancy payment, you have 6 months minus one day to bring your claim. This is considerably longer than the three months minus one day time limit that is generally given for breach of contract claims heard in the Employment Tribunal.
  • You may also be able to issue your claim in the County Court. Most claims brought within the County Court relate to a breach of contract and there is therefore a 6 year time limit for bringing a claim. It is advisable however to seek advice at the earliest opportunity so that you do not miss any deadlines for action.

Proving your case

  • In the case of unfair or constructive dismissal you must first show that you have at least 2 years’ continuous employment. If your employer has changed under the provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment 2006 Regulations 2006 (TUPE) within those two years your employment would be deemed to be continuous since you started work for the original employer.
  • In the case of certain other claims such as discrimination, unlawful deductions from pay and working hours etc. there is no minimum service requirement.
  • If you are seeking to bring a constructive dismissal claim you must show that your employer has effectively forced you to resign due to serious acts or omissions on their part that amount to a breach of a fundamental term of your contract of employment.
  • Constructive dismissal is a notoriously difficult claim to bring and the employee must show that the employer’s actions (or inactions) were so serious as to warrant the resignation. Examples of constructive dismissal claims:

    • A fundamental change to your terms and conditions of employment (without good reason and prior agreement) such as requiring you to work nights when your contract specifies that you are to work days.
    • Allowing or encouraging staff members to harass you.
    • Failing to pay you or demoting you without any agreement.
  • In the case of discrimination it must be possible to show that you have been treated less favourably than a comparator because of a protected characteristic which you have but the comparator does not. The comparator does not always have to be an actual person working within the business, it may be a hypothetical person who does not have the protected characteristic you have.
  • Protected characteristics are clearly set out in law. They are as follows:

    • Age
    • Disability
    • Gender reassignment
    • Marriage and civil partnership
    • Pregnancy and maternity
    • Race
    • Religion or belief
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
  • You may have a claim for unfair dismissal if your employer did not have a fair reason to dismiss you or perhaps they had a fair reason but did not follow the correct procedure.
  • There are 5 potentially fair reasons for dismissal. These are:

    • Capability (if your employer believes that you are not capable of doing your job)
    • Conduct (your behaviour or something you’ve done wrong)
    • Redundancy
    • Illegality (if it is not legal to employ you)
    • Some other substantial reason (this may be any other reason an Employment Tribunal feels is a fair reason to dismiss you)

Evidence

  • Keep records of important conversations, meetings or events in a diary or notes including dates, times and names of the people involved.
  • Keep a file including minutes of relevant meetings, email or postal correspondence.
  • Make sure you keep a copy of any letter relating to the dismissal and copies of any grievance / appeal letters you write.
  • You may need witness evidence from work colleagues.
  • Photographs.
  • A certificate of Early Conciliation from ACAS.
  • Medical reports.

Resolution

  • The first step, prior to taking legal proceedings, is to use the correct internal dispute resolution procedures. This may include raising a grievance or appealing any decision you disagree with.
  • Your employer may have set grievance and / or appeal processes which they should notify you of. If they do not then you should set out your complaint / appeal formally and in writing.
  • ACAS may be able to help you to resolve your dispute by way of mediation or conciliation. To find out if they are able to assist in your case you can contact them on 0300 123 1100.
  • Should you be unable to resolve your dispute with your employer you may be able to take your complaint to the Employment Tribunal.
  • It is also possible to bring certain claims to the County Court. This could be beneficial, for example, where the amount claimed exceeds the maximum limit in the Employment Tribunal.

Compensation

  • If you are successful at Employment Tribunal or you are offered a Settlement Agreement by your employer you may receive a financial award.
  • The financial award for unfair or constructive dismissal is made up of two parts. The basic award which is calculated by multiplying the age of the employee, length of service and weekly pay (which is capped). The compensatory award, if awarded, will be calculated to take into account loss of earnings, loss of employment rights and loss of pension rights.
  • In the Employment Tribunal there are caps on the amount of award that can be ordered for a particular claim as well as a cap on the maximum weekly pay. These rates change annually so if you are in doubt as to the current figures please contact the legal advice line.
  • In cases of discrimination the Tribunal can award compensation for injury to feelings as well as financial loss. There is no upper limit on the amount a Tribunal can award for injury to feelings.
  • There are alternatives to compensation which the Tribunal could award. These are:

    • Reinstatement – where the employee resumes his / her old role as if he / she had never been dismissed.
    • Re-engagement – This must be on terms which are, so far as is reasonably practicable, as favourable as an order for reinstatement. The re-engagement does not necessarily need to be with the same employer but could be with a company in the same group, for example.

Should you have a dispute with your employer please contact the legal advice line as soon as possible. The legal advice line can advise you what steps to take to resolve the dispute, whether cover may be provided under your insurance and whether you might have a legal claim.

It is worth noting at this stage that should your wish to pursue a claim the Lawyer appointed on your behalf will request you to provide as much information as possible to support your case. This could include any of the following documents where relevant (please note that this list is not exhaustive):

  • Copy of contract of employment;
  • Witness details;
  • Correspondence with anyone regarding your claim;
  • Photographs;
  • Medical and/or expert reports;
  • Any documents received or sent to a court
  • A statement or diary of everything that has happened;
  • Receipts for expenses;
  • Any other information

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