Dismissing employees

Types of employee dismissal


There are several types of staff dismissal:

  • fair dismissal
  • unfair dismissal
  • constructive dismissal
  • wrongful dismissal

Fair and unfair dismissal

A dismissal is fair or unfair depending on your reason or reasons for dismissal and whether you act reasonably during the dismissal process. Industrial tribunals/arbitrators follow previous legal decisions in deciding what is reasonable. What is unfair dismissal and what is fair dismissal?

Constructive dismissal

Constructive dismissal occurs where an employee resigns because you have substantially breached their employment contract, for example:

  • cutting wages without agreement
  • unlawfully demoting them
  • allowing colleagues to subject them to harassment, bullying, victimisation, humiliation or discrimination
  • unfairly increasing their workload
  • changing the location of their workplace without contractual authority
  • making them work in dangerous conditions

The breach of contract can result from either a single serious event or the last in a series of less serious events.

An individual may claim constructive unfair dismissal. A constructive dismissal is not necessarily an unfair one but it's hard for an employer to show that an action in breach of the contract was, in fact, fair.

Wrongful dismissal

Wrongful dismissal is where a contractual term is broken in the dismissal process, for example, dismissing an employee without giving them proper notice.

For further information see the Employers' Handbook Section 18: Disciplinary issues and dismissal (PDF, 95K).