What is an automatically unfair dismissal?

Automatically unfair dismissals include dismissals connected with: 

  • membership of, or activities connected to, an independent trade union; 

  • taking legitimate steps to ensure the observance of workplace health and safety requirements; 

  • leaving (or refusing to attend) the workplace because of a serious and imminent danger to health and safety; 

  • carrying out the functions of an elected employee representative or candidate for election or taking part in an election for reps

  • carrying out the functions of an occupational pension scheme trustee; 

  • a reason relating to jury service; 

  • disclosures of wrongdoing under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (whistleblowing); 

  • pregnancy or childbirth; 

  • asserting any statutory right, for example: 

  • trying to take advantage of statutory family or other care-related entitlements, such as asking to take paternity leave; 

  • asking to work flexibly or part-time; or 

  • exercising the right to be accompanied or acting as a companion; 

  • refusing to work on a Sunday if working in retail or betting (unless part of your existing contract); 

  • seeking entitlements under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998; 

  • a reason relating to information on a blacklist; or 

  • a reason relating to pensions auto-enrolment. 

For most automatically unfair dismissals, no service is needed. There is an exception for automatically unfair dismissals because of a TUPE transfer or because of a spent conviction. In both these cases, two years’ service is required. 

An employer cannot justify or defend a dismissal which is automatically unfair. 

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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