How to understand the 5 Legal Reasons for Fair Dismissal in the UK

How to understand the 5 Legal Reasons for Fair Dismissal in the UK: A Guide for Employers and HR Teams

As an employer or HR professional in the UK, it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the legal reasons for fair dismissal to protect both your Employees’ rights and your business’s interests. Dismissing an Employee without a legitimate reason can lead to costly legal consequences.

In our article, we explore the five legal reasons for fair dismissal in the UK, how to manage the process effectively, the impact of unfair dismissal, and the importance of policies and best practices in maintaining legal compliance.

Why not take a read today, let’s take a look:



What are the 5 legal reasons for fair dismissal?

There are 5 legal reasons for a fair dismissal in the UK, let’s take a look at each one below:



One of the primary reasons for fair dismissal is an Employee’s capability to perform their job. This may include issues related to skills, qualifications, health, or even a lack of necessary professional conduct. As an Employer you must offer support, training, and reasonable opportunities for improvement before considering dismissal.


Conduct-related issues encompass a wide range of behaviours, from misconduct, insubordination, theft, fraud, and harassment to breach of your internal company policies.

As an Employer you must have clear guidelines and disciplinary procedures in place to address these issues and ensure they follow due process when considering dismissal.


If a role is no longer required due to a business restructuring, downsizing, or closure, as an Employer you may legally dismiss Employees on the grounds of redundancy. However, strict criteria must be met, including consulting with affected Employees, considering alternative employment within the organisation, and following a fair selection process.


When an Employee’s continued employment becomes illegal, such as if they lose the right to work in the UK or if their professional qualifications are revoked, As an Employer you have legal grounds for dismissal. It is crucial to stay up to date with immigration laws and regulatory requirements to avoid employing individuals without the necessary permissions.

Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR)

The catch-all category of “Some Other Substantial Reason” (SOSR) allows you the Employer to dismiss Employees for legitimate but non-standard reasons. This might include personality clashes, breakdowns in working relationships, or other compelling business reasons. Employers must demonstrate that the reason for dismissal is substantial and justifiable.



As an Employer how should I be managing the dismissal process?

Handling a dismissal properly is crucial to minimize the risk of legal action. Here are some key steps to consider:


  • Gather evidence: as an Employer you should ensure you have a robust paper trail documenting the Employee’s performance or conduct issues
  • Follow internal procedures: as an Employer you should adhere to your company’s disciplinary and dismissal policies consistently
  • Conduct meetings: as an Employer you should hold formal meetings with the Employee to discuss their issues and provide them with an opportunity to respond
  • Offer support: as an Employer you should consider alternatives to dismissal, such as additional training or counselling
  • Consult HR and legal experts: as an Employer you should seek advice to ensure your actions are legally sound



What is the impact of unfair dismissal?

Unfair dismissal can have significant consequences for your business, including:


  • Tribunal claims: your Employee/s can take legal action against the company including you personally, leading to costly tribunal proceedings
  • Reputational damage: unfair dismissal cases can tarnish your company’s reputation, making it harder to attract top talent and retain clients
  • Employee morale: a culture of unfair dismissal can lower Employee morale, leading to decreased productivity and increased turnover



What is the importance of policies and best practices?

To maintain legal compliance and mitigate risks, it is crucial to have clear policies and best practices in place, as an Employer you can do this by:


  • Develop and update policies: as an Employer you should regularly review and update your company’s policies and procedures to ensure they align with current legislation
  • Provide training: as an Employer you should educate managers and HR teams on the correct dismissal procedures and the importance of adhering to them
  • Consult legal counsel: as an Employer you should seek legal advice when creating or amending policies to ensure compliance with UK employment law


What are the legal implications of non-compliance?


It is commonplace for non-compliance with UK employment law, however it can result in severe consequences, let’s take a look in more detail below:


  • Financial penalties: tribunals can impose hefty fines on businesses found guilty of unfair dismissal
  • Reinstatement or compensation: as an Employer you may be ordered to reinstate the dismissed Employee or provide financial compensation
  • Damage to business reputation: as an Employer your reputation is of paramount importance, unfair treatment of Employees can harm your brand and impact profitability




Understanding the five legal reasons for fair dismissal in the UK is essential you as an Employer and your HR teams. By following the correct procedures, maintaining updated policies, and seeking legal guidance, undoubtedly you can protect your business from the legal and reputational risks associated with unfair dismissal. Investing in a fair and compliant dismissal process not only safeguards your business but also ensures that Employees are treated with the respect and fairness they deserve.



How can we help you further?

We are here to provide you with full advice, support, and guidance. We can advise in any HR or Employment Law matter: you can contact a member of our team on 0333 006 9489 or [email protected]





This article contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.

HR and You Ltd, owns the copyright in this document. You must not use this document in any way that infringes the intellectual property rights in it.  You may download and print this document which you may then use, for your own internal non-profit making purposes. However, under no circumstances are you permitted to use, copy, or reproduce this document with a view to profit or gain.

In addition, you must not sell or distribute this document to third parties who are not members of your organisation, whether for monetary payment or otherwise.

This document is intended to serve as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. This document should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a HR and You Ltd Consultant or a member of our legal team.

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