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There are various ways your employment can come to an end – but if you are an employee you have the right not to be unfairly dismissed. From 1st October 2011 those defined as ‘agency workers’ will also have a right not to be unfairly dismissed for reasons relating to the Agency Workers Regulations.
Your employer, in certain circumstances, can change your terms and conditions of employment – see the ‘Written Statements and Contracts’ section for information.
If you are an employee – how your employment can come to an end
If you are an Apprentice read our Guide to Apprenticeships as there are some differences.
If you are a Freelancer/Contractor you can read here what rights you have if your Client cancels your contract here.
You or your Employer can give notice to end your employment if you are a permanent employee.
Information about Probationary Periods are here.
Your contract should contain reasonable notice periods that you or your employer can give each other. There are minimum periods of notice required by law, which are:
However, your contract may specify longer periods of notice that you would need to give if you were resigning, or your employer would need to give you if they were dismissing you (and these longer notice periods would apply), and you can choose to agree to waive your rights to give/receive the full notice period, or agree to accept a payment in lieu of taking the full notice period.
If you resign with immediate effect and refuse to work your full notice period, you will be technically in breach of contract (unless your employer has acted in a way towards you that represents a fundamental breach of contract) and your employer can refuse to accept your resignation and does not need to pay you if you refuse to work. The Courts do not have the authority to compel an employee to work for an employer, however the Employer could apply for an injunction to prevent you from working for a competitor during the outstanding part of the notice period. An Employer could also sue the employee for breach of contract, but this is very unlikely due the expense involved. Your Employer may also refuse to provide a reference for you to any future Employers.
If you are dismissed without being given the proper notice you are required to be given by your Employer (the legal minimum or your contractual notice, whichever applies) your length of service is calculated by adding on the legal notice you should have been given – when you are working out how long you have worked for your Employer. However, if you are calculating your service to make an Employment Tribunal claim, (for unfair dismissal for example) your employment is treated as ending on the day you were dismissed (i.e. you need to include the notice period you are entitled to within the 3 month time limit you have to make a Tribunal claim). More details about the ‘effective date of termination’ are here.
In Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood 2017, the Court of Appeal looked at when notice of termination was effective. The Employer had given notice to the employee while she was away on holiday – by e-mailing her husband and posting the letter by recorded delivery and normal post. The contract did not contain any terms setting out when notice would take effect. The Court felt the employer was not authorised to communicate with the husband and as the employee did not read the letter until she returned home, the date the termination took effect was the date she personally read the letter. (the date was significant for Haywood because she was turning 50 which would have entitled her to a higher pension).
Before 1st October 2011 you could be retired if you reached the default national retirement age of 65. This automatic default retirement age was removed from 1st October 2011 – for details see our Guide here, and our updated Guide to Retirements here.
Where you are employed on a Fixed Term contract your written statement should state the date the contract is expected to end. Generally your employer does not have to give you notice of this expiry date.
However your employer may be able to terminate your contract before it’s nominated end date, if this is written into your contract, by giving the appropriate notice period (as in point 1. above).
If you do not have a notice period in your Fixed Term contract and it is ended early, this may be a breach of contract and you may be able to claim damages.
If your Fixed Term contracts ends on its expiry date and is not renewed, or you are given notice to end it early, and you have one years continuous service with your employer, you are entitled to ask for a written statement from your employer explaining the reasons for your contract ending (or 2 years if your employment started on or after 6th April 2012).
If you are unhappy about this you should have the right to ask for an appeal under your employers dismissal procedure.
For more details about Fixed Term Contracts ending please see our new article on Fixed Term Contracts here. And for details about being employed on a Fixed Term contract during maternity leave please see here.
You may feel that you have no choice and are being forced to resign and claim constructive dismissal.
This may happen if you feel a serious incident has happened at work and you have been treated sufficiently badly and you are unable to continue working for your employer, so you terminate your employment in response to your employers treatment of you – e.g.
Although there is no actual dismissal your Employers treatment of you is sufficiently bad that you are entitled to regard yourself as having been dismissed.
In a case in September 2013 – Blackburn v Aldi Stores Ltd – the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that failure to provide an impartial grievance appeal process could potentially amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence and form the basis of a constructive dismissal claim ; the same Manager had heard the Grievance and the Appeal; and the EAT found that an organisation of Aldi’s size should be able to provide an independent hearing by a manager not previously involved in the case.
In July 2016 in Nicholsdon v Hazel House Nursing Home Ltd, the employee who was pregnant asked her nursing home if she could switch shifts from the morning to the afternoon, which her employer agreed to do, but then reduced her shifts from 5 to 3 a week without consulting her. This meant she qualified for maternity allownace only not SMP. She put in a grievance which was rejected. She then resigned and later put in an appeal against the grievance decision but then did not respond to the request for further information and the appeal was not held. The case went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal who said she had been constructively unfairly dismissed and the reduction in shifts was pregnancy discrimination.
Before you resign and claim constructive dismissal you should raise an internal grievance first, otherwise an Employment Tribunal may refuse to hear your constructive dismissal claim or reduce any compensation you may receive. Constructive dismissal is notoriously difficult to prove so tread carefully and take advice from a qualified person. You cannot make a claim for constructive dismissal itself, but if you can demonstrate the you have been dismissed you can go onto claim unfair or wrongful dismissal.
To succeed in a constructive dismissal claim the employee has to show that they have resigned in response to a fundamental breach of their contract by the Employer. You can resign by giving notice (you do not have to walk out immediately) but ideally this should be no longer than your contractual notice, as this is likely to invalidate your claim (as you have affirmed the contract). Similarly, if you are on sick leave you should not accept sick pay over a long period of time before resigning. Read our article here for more information on what to do if you are unhappy about changes your Employer is making to your contract/terms and conditions of employment.
Employees must show that their decision to terminate their employment was in response to the breach (and not because they have a better job offer for example) and they should not delay resigning too long. You should not leave too much time between the employer’s breach of contract and your resignation or you are deemed to have accepted or waived that breach. There is no time period laid down, it depends on the context of the situation – for example if the employee is not at work during the period before the resignation (off sick for example), then time is less of an issue; similarly the employee’s personal circumstances may dictate how long the employee needs to make up his/her mind to resign (sole family earner, likely re-employment prospects etc).
In Chindove v William Morrisons Supermarkets in August 2014 the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the fact an employee was on sick leave was a relevant consideration when determining whether a delay in resigning would prevent a claim for constructive dismissal.
Read our article here on large-scale dismissals.
There are various reasons why your employer can dismiss you – there are fair and unfair reasons.
You have a right to request a written statement explaining why you have been dismissed and whether you have received notice or not, if you have been employed continuously by your employer for two years.
NB: Regardless of the reason for your dismissal your employer must also act fairly in the procedure they follow to dismiss you – more information about Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedures here.
There are 5 potentially fair reasons for an employer to dismiss you – if you have 2 years or more continuous service with your Employer (in England, Scotland and Wales) you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal at Employment Tribunal if you believe your dismissal is incorrect; you will still only need 1 years service in Northern Ireland – for more details about continuous service see our guide here):
However, if your employer dismisses you for the following reasons they are automatically unfair (regardless of your length of service) and you may receive compensation at an Employment Tribunal if you make a claim:
If you are a Military Reservist you cannot be dismissed solely or mainly on account of any duties they have to undertake – here dismissal would be a criminal offence and protection exists irrespective of whether formal notification of mobilisation has been given to the Employer. At the moment you need 2 years continuous service to be able to claim this but from 1st October 2014 this 2-year service requirement is removed for a military reservist who is dismissed exclusively (or mainly) because he or she is a member of the reserve forces. See more details in our new Guide to Military Reservists here.
If you are dismissed you should first appeal under your employers disciplinary procedures before pursuing a claim at Employment Tribunal. If you make a claim to Employment Tribunal you usually need to do this within 3 months of being dismissed (unless your company’s disciplinary procedures haven’t been finished). http://www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk
From 2014 Acas will launch an ‘Early Conciliation’ service which will change the way people access the Employment Tribunal system. It will mean that anyone who wants to lodge an employment tribunal claim will have to notify ACAS first and will have up to a month to attempt to resolve the dispute with their Employer (before lodging the claim) with ACAS’s help. If ACAS can’t resolve the matter in this period then their services will remain available right up until the case is heard by an Employment Tribunal. More details about pre-conciliation here.
Compensation for unfair dismissal at Employment Tribunal is meant to put you financially where you would have been if you had not been dismissed.
Your Employment can end by mutual agreement – for more details on pre-termination negotiations and Settlement Agreements (where you are paid compensation for your employment to end if you agree that you cannot pursue a claim through a Tribunal or the Courts against your Employer) read our new Guide here (effective from 29th July 2013). For details about Without Prejudice rules see our Guide here.
Insolvency happens when an Employer has no money to pay the people they owe in full, including their employees, and they have to make arrangements to meet these debts. You can see details about Redundancy and Insolvency from the Governments Insolvency service here.
There are different types of insolvency. If your Employer is a Limited Company or partnership then Insolvency will be either:
If your Employer is an individual then insolvency will mean Bankruptcy or a Voluntary arrangement with creditors.
Usually someone is appointed to deal with an official insolvency situation. They will be in charge of the situation and could be called an insolvency practitioner, official receiver, administrator, liquidator, supervisor or trustee. What will insolvency mean for you as an employee?
You need to find our if your Employer is insolvent or not. If your Employer is still trading but you are not getting paid you may be able to complain to an Employment Tribunal that there has been an unlawful deduction from your pay.
As this can be a very complicated situation you can speak to the Government’s Insolvency Service (click here).
If your employer is officially insolvent you may be able to claim the following from the National Insurance Fund:
From 31st January 2017, employment tribunal claims relating to employees of insolvent company’s, where payments are sought from the National Insurance Fund, such as redundancy payments, will no longer require a fee.
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issue then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.
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