by Kate Russell

Wrongful dismissal

Wrongful dismissal means dismissal in breach of contract. Any claim for wrongful dismissal will entail looking at the employee’s employment contract to see if the employer has broken it.

The most common breach is where the employee is dismissed without notice or the notice given is too short. Either party can end the employment relationship if they give the necessary notice. This will either be the legal minimum or what is stated in the employee’s contract.

However, the employer can justify dismissing the employee without notice (summary dismissal) if the employee commits a fundamental breach of the employment contract, in other words for gross misconduct, such as theft.

Statutory notice periods

Even though wrongful dismissal is based upon contract law the employer must give minimum notice periods as laid down by the law, as shown below.

Time in Job Notice
  • Under 1 month
  • Over 1 month
  • 2 years’ service
  • 3 years’ service
  • 4 years’ service
  • None
  • 1 week
  • 2 weeks
  • 3 weeks
  • 4 weeks

This carries on with one week’s notice for every extra year in the job, until the employee will be eligible to receive 12 weeks’ notice when he has 12 years’ service. Notice periods are often extended by contract and if that’s the case the contractual notice period will apply.

This cuts both ways: if the employee decides to leave, the employer can ask and expect the employee to work this notice period. This gives the employer time to find a replacement. And if the employer wishes to dismiss the employee it gives the employee time to find a new job.