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Legal Aspects of Employment in the United Kingdom


Employment laws help to ensure that working conditions are safe and fair for the employees; moreover, they can help to prevent and mediate the potential conflicts between an employer and employees. One of the key legal aspects of the employment law in the United Kingdom is the dismissal of workers. According to the UK employment law, the employer must show a valid reason for the dismissal of workers, or prove that he or she has acted reasonably in the current circumstances (UK Government 2017).

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There is a set of distinctive reasons, which are considered valid for the dismissal of an employee. However, if an employee believes that he or she was subject to unfair or wrongful dismissal, the worker can make a claim to an employment tribunal to challenge the employer to pay out compensation.

Unfair Dismissal

The term “unfair dismissal” refers to the situations where the reasons for dismissal are invalid or when the employer acted unreasonably during the dismissal process (UK Government 2017). The claimant is entitled to pursue a claim even if the stated reason for dismissal is fair, although the Tribunal may not support the claim (Taylor & Emir 2015). There are certain reasons for dismissal that are considered to be automatically unfair by law.

These include pregnancy and maternity-related reasons, family reasons, acting as an employee representative in a trade union, discrimination, whistleblowing, and reasons related to working hours and wage (UK Government 2017). For instance, if an employee is dismissed following her pregnancy announcement, she may seek to file a complaint to the Tribunal on the basis of unfair treatment. On the other hand, if a disabled employee was dismissed during his or her inability to perform the required job tasks, and there are no sensible arrangements that could have been made, the reason for dismissal will likely be deemed fair by the Tribunal (UK Government 2017).

It is also critical to note that from 2012, only workers with over two years of service are protected from unfair dismissal (Ewing & Hendy Qc 2012). Compensation for unfair dismissal is determined by the Tribunal and can be up to the current limit set by the government. Thus, unfair dismissal can become very costly to an organisation: in 2016, the UK Government limit was £78,335 (Lawrite 2016).

Ever since the unfair dismissal regulations have become an integral part of the UK employment law, they were subject to continuous speculation (Howe 2013). For example, some believe that every employer should have the right to dismiss an employee if it seems fit, provided that the employee receives reasonable compensation and notice (Howe 2013). The subject of unfair dismissal is highly controversial, particularly due to its subjectivity.

The legal definition of “unfair dismissal” does not allow for exclusions, which can constrict certain types of businesses in their decisions. For instance, if an employee who is responsible for a major on-going project requests a paternity leave, the company cannot use this as a valid reason for dismissal. Moreover, the possible costs of such cases are considerably high: not only will the employer have to comply with the regulations for paternity leave, but the company will also need to fill in the position, thus facing additional expenditures. Nevertheless, dismissing an employee due to the request of paternity leave is unethical, as the circumstances are not his fault.

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Employment laws are designed to promote human rights (Mantouvalou 2012). However, in the cases when the employer may face difficulties because of the employee’s absence, other employees may suffer. The laws that are aimed at promoting ethics should ensure that all sides of the conflict are satisfied, which is why the recent proposal to reform the employment law and grant employers a right to perform a compensated no-fault dismissal would bring an end to the ethical discussion surrounding the unfair dismissal law.

Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful dismissal is an entirely different concept in employment law that addresses the breach of contract by the employer (UK Government 2017). An example of wrongful dismissal is if an employer dismisses an employee without the set notice period, as stipulated in the employment contract or as defined in the UK employment law (UK Government 2017). In the case of wrongful dismissal, the employee is entitled to submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal.

Depending on the decision of the Tribunal, the employer may be liable to pay the damages for wrongful dismissal, which include any losses suffered by the employee due to the employer’s actions. For example, the employer may be liable to cover the wages and benefits that would have been earned by the worker during the legal or contractual notice period (Taylor & Emir 2015). However, there are certain exclusions from the law regarding wrongful dismissal.

If an employer dismissed an employee due to an incident of gross misconduct, no claim for wrongful dismissal will be accepted (Taylor & Emir 2015). Nevertheless, the definition of “gross misconduct” remains vague and there are certain cases where an employee could still receive compensation if the Tribunal does not define his or her actions as gross misconduct.

The regulations regarding wrongful dismissal are not as questionable as in the case with unfair dismissal. The breach of contract by an employer should be subject to penalty, and there are very few cases in which exceptions should be considered. Both the employer and the employee are required to act in accordance with the contract, as it is designed to outline the relationships between the two parties and to prevent potential conflicts.


Overall, both the unfair dismissal and the wrongful dismissal claims in the UK employment law services to protect the interests of workers. However, in the case of unfair dismissal, the nature of the law restricts employers from making decisions that are favourable to the business, which creates a number of ethical concerns. In order to account for these concerns, the government should consider reforming the employment law to allow for compensated no-fault dismissals, thus helping the two parties to reach a compromise.

Reference List

Ewing, KD & Hendy Qc J 2012. ‘Unfair dismissal law changes — unfair?’, Industrial Law Journal, vol. 41, no. 1, pp.115-121.

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Howe, J 2013, ‘Poles apart? The contestation between the ideas of no fault dismissal and unfair dismissal for protecting job security’, Industrial Law Journal, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 122-151.

Lawrite 2016, HR, employment law, and your business. Web.

Mantouvalou, V 2012, ‘Are labour rights human rights?’, European Labour Law Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 151-172.

Taylor, S & Emir A 2015, Employment law: an introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

UK Government 2017, Dismissing staff. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "Legal Aspects of Employment in the United Kingdom." December 18, 2020.


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