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Check if your employer's dismissal process is unfair

This advice applies to Scotland

Your employer should follow a fair process if they dismiss you. What’s fair depends on your situation, but they normally need to follow their own rules and a standard set of rules called the Acas code. 

You can appeal against your dismissal if your employer doesn’t follow a fair process. You might be able to keep your job if you can show how the unfair process affected you.

Your dismissal process is also important if you think you’ve been unfairly dismissed. You’ll have a stronger case for unfair dismissal if there are problems with your employer’s process.

If you haven’t been dismissed but you’re worried you might be, read our advice on disciplinary meetings to have the best chance of keeping your job.

There's a different process if you're made redundant

If you’re self-employed

You don’t have dismissal rights if you’re self-employed.

If your employer says you’re self-employed but they pay your tax and tell you what hours to work, it’s worth checking if you’re really self-employed. You might be an employee instead - which means your employer should follow a fair dismissal process.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not sure if you’re really self-employed.

See if your employer has a dismissal process

Look in your contract or staff handbook to see if your employer has a dismissal process. For example, the process might say you’ll get a written warning before you’re dismissed.

Ask your employer about their dismissal process if you can’t find one. There might be a standard process they follow even if it isn’t written down.

Keep a note of any ways your employer doesn’t follow their dismissal process - including dates. Having this record could help you appeal against your dismissal.

Check if there are rules you should follow

Try to follow any rules in your employer’s dismissal process - even if your employer doesn’t. Following the process could save you effort and make your case stronger if you make a legal challenge.

Your employer’s process might give you a right to an internal appeal. It’s often worth making this appeal before starting any legal challenge - particularly if you want to get your job back.

The process might also involve dismissal meetings - always try to go to these, or tell your employer in advance if you can’t go.

Make sure your employer follows the Acas code

Your employer should follow the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (the Acas code) as well as their own process. Acas is an independent organisation that helps sort out employment disputes.

Your employer should follow the Acas code if they dismiss you for misconduct, poor performance, or something else they say is your fault. Even if you’re dismissed for another reason the code is a good guide to what your dismissal process should involve.

The Acas code means your dismissal process should include at least 5 steps. Keep a note of any parts of the code your employer doesn’t follow.

Step 1: an investigation

Your employer should try to work out the facts behind whatever they say you’ve done wrong. The process could be unfair if they don’t make any effort to find out what’s really happened.

They should investigate as quickly as they can. If you’re suspended they have to keep paying you.

Step 2: an initial letter

Your employer should write you a letter or email telling you what the problem is. They also have to tell you what could happen as a result - for example if you could be dismissed or given a formal warning.

Step 3: a dismissal meeting

Your employer should arrange a meeting where you can defend yourself. They have to hold this meeting before they make a decision.

Your employer should give you a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the meeting. They must tell you what you’re accused of and what evidence they have.

Tell your employer in advance if you can’t get to the meeting - they should be willing to rearrange it. Also ask them to rearrange it if you don’t get enough time to prepare.

Step 4: your employer's decision 

As soon as they can, your employer should send you a letter or email with the result of the dismissal meeting. They must mention that you can appeal and tell you how to do it.

The decision should treat you in the same way as other employees in similar situations.

Step 5: a chance to appeal

You should get a chance to appeal if you disagree with your employer’s decision. Your appeal shouldn’t be decided by the same person who originally dismissed you - though it can be if your employer only has a few employees.

Find out more about how to deal with being in a disciplinary process.

Bring someone with you to dismissal meetings

You can bring someone with you to a dismissal meeting or appeal meeting. They can take notes, take part in the conversation and discuss things with you during the meeting.

Tell your employer in writing if you want to bring someone to a meeting. You have a right to bring:

  • a co-worker
  • an official from any union, even if you aren’t a member
  • anyone mentioned in your employer’s internal rules - for example a staff representative

You might be able to bring someone else, but check with your employer first, as they’re allowed to say no.

Your employer has to rearrange the meeting if the person coming with you can’t make it.

If your employer won’t let you bring someone to the meeting

Tell your employer that it’s your legal right to bring someone to the meeting. Also explain if having someone else at the meeting could help your employer too. For example, it might be helpful to have someone there to help you translate.

If your employer still refuses, you could make a tribunal claim. This would be separate to any other claim you wanted to bring - for example an unfair dismissal claim. If you win, you could get compensation of up to 2 weeks’ pay, up to a maximum of £958.

If your employer hasn’t followed a fair process

You can appeal against your dismissal if your employer hasn’t followed the Acas code or their internal process, if they have one. Your employer should tell you how to appeal when they dismiss you - ask them about appealing if they don’t say anything.

At your appeal, explain why you think the process was unfair and what difference it made. For example, explain why you wouldn’t have been dismissed if your employer had given you a chance to explain your case.

Find out how to appeal against your dismissal, or contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

Also check if you’ve been unfairly dismissed - for example if you’re dismissed because you’re pregnant. Your unfair dismissal case will be stronger if your employer hasn’t followed a fair process, especially if you can argue that they:

  • are trying to hide their lack of evidence for dismissing you
  • have already decided to get rid of you instead of finding out what really happened
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