In Northern Ireland, employees must have been continuously employed for one year or more to allow them to claim unfair dismissal.
There are exclusions to this requirement, including dismissals for reasons connected to pregnancy or childbirth, health and safety activities, whistleblowing, or asserting a statutory right under the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.
What to do first if you have been unfairly dismissed
If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed by your employer, you can appeal under your employer’s dismissal or disciplinary procedures. If this does not work, then you may be able to appeal to an Industrial Tribunal.
The first step before making a formal complaint about unfair dismissal is to try and resolve the reasons for your dismissal with your employer. You and your employer could try conciliation through the Labour Relations Agency where a specialist can help you mediate the issues.
Another option is individual arbitration, where an independent arbitrator hears the case and makes a legally binding decision.
Making an appeal to an Industrial Tribunal about your unfair dismissal
You must make your claim to an Industrial Tribunal within three months of being dismissed. This time limit is strictly adhered to, and it is circumstantial that a claim will be accepted after the time limit. The three months start to run from the effective date of termination of employment.
You cannot make a complaint of unfair dismissal if you are a:
- worker (rather than an employee)
- member of the armed forces
- self-employed person
- an agency temp working under a contract for services
- member of the police service (unless you were dismissed for acting on health and safety grounds or whistleblowing)
You may have agreed not to make a complaint of unfair dismissal
If you have reached a compromise agreement with your employer, where you agreed not to make an unfair dismissal complaint, then you cannot make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal. When you make a compromise agreement with your employer, you must then receive independent legal advice from a solicitor such as McPartland & Sons.
What happens if you are successful with your unfair dismissal claim?
If an Industrial Tribunal finds you have been unfairly dismissed, you will usually be awarded compensation. Sometimes you will be allowed to return to your job. You do not have to always return to your work, but your compensation may be lower if you do not.
Getting in touch
Compensation is to help you get to a place where you would have been financially if you had not been sacked – there’s no compensation for emotions (except if you have also successfully claimed for unlawful discrimination).
Time starts to run from the effective date of termination, regardless of whether there is an appeal pending or not. Therefore, legal advice should be sought after promptly, and a claim should be made to the Tribunal without delay.