Discrimination and unfair dismissal: know your rights

As we have progressed into the third lockdown, it has become increasingly difficult to retain a job, let alone find one. According to the Office of National Statistics, the rate of unemployment in the UK from September to November alone was 5.0%, which the BBC said is an increase of 0.6% over the previous three months, meaning that 1.72 million people were unemployed. In this article I aim to explain what would qualify for unfair dismissal and what you can do about it.

A dismissal becomes unfair if the employer had no good reasons to dismiss you or did not follow the company’s formal disciplinary or dismissal procedures in dismissing you. The right to not be unfairly dismissed is protected by statute law section 94(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Characteristics which make a dismissal unfair due to discrimination include being pregnant or on being on maternity leave, being from a particular race, ethnicity or country, being married or in a civil partnership, being a man or a woman, disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, having a particular religion or set of beliefs or being older or younger than the people you work with. When discrimination is the reason making a dismissal unfair, you can challenge the dismissal and be entitled to a legal remedy. To bring a claim, you have to be an “employee” and have worked for your employer for two years. However, being pregnant or on maternity leave, or asking for a family leave such as parental, paternity or adoption leave, are factors that makes a dismissal “automatically unfair”, meaning you do not have to have worked for your employer for two years.

The current pandemic landscape left everyone with little choices on how they can carry on their work. Discrimination provisions outlined above could apply to you, along with factors such as refusing to attend work due to it being unsafe for you to do so. Being dismissed because of this would amount to unfair dismissal. The discrimination element could be your age, such as being in a particularly vulnerable age group prone to conducting Coronavirus. It could be that you are pregnant and therefore do not wish to contract the virus which would put you and your baby’s health at risk – this would also include discrimination on grounds of sex, as you are a woman. Failing to make adjustments for workers based on their characteristics, choosing to dismiss them instead, is unfair and can be challenged. Not only is it the most difficult time to be dismissed, but nobody should be dismissed based on who they are. The law of England and Wales protects its workforce and Employment Tribunals handle claims in unfair and other types of dismissal. If you think that you have been unfairly dismissed on grounds of discrimination, you can contact us at LJ Legal Ltd, as well as Citizens Advice, to clarify your rights, look at your contract of employment and decide on the options available to you. We would be glad to help you to prepare your case. Please do not hesitate to get in touch.