Feel like you've been unfairly dismissed?
Losing your job can be rough, especially if you’ve been fired. But of course it’s not the end of the world and, if you think it’s unfair, there are things you can do about it. An employer can’t fire someone without providing grounds for dismissal, or the reasons why they had to be let go. These grounds can either be fair or unfair, and it’s always up to the person doing the firing to prove they have fair reasons for doing so.
Dismissal vs. Redundancy
Getting dismissed (“fired”) is different from being made redundant. In a dismissal, your employer intends to replace you with someone else, while being made redundant means your job has ceased to exist. Head over to our article on redundancy if it’s more suited to your situation.
Receiving proper notice
You can’t just be let go at the drop of a hat - there are legal procedures your boss will have to follow. If you’ve worked at least 13 weeks for your current employer, you’re entitled to no less than one week’s notice before you’re let go. This increases the longer you’ve worked somewhere: you’re entitled to two weeks’ notice after two years, four weeks after five years, and so on. Your written contract may entitle you to more notice but not less than these minimums. In some cases, you may receive payment instead of notice. You may also receive neither if you are being let go for serious misconduct such as theft or assault.
What else should I receive from my employer?
You must receive a P45 document, a payslip, any outstanding pay including for the rest of your annual leave, and information on what happens to your pension scheme if you have one. Your employer must also give you a written copy of the reasons for your dismissal within 14 days of you asking for one.
Fair and Unfair Dismissal
One of your main rights as an employee is not to be unfairly dismissed from work. If they’re letting you go, your employer will have to prove all of the following:
- Your dismissal is connected to at least one of the legal “fair grounds” (listed below).
- They’ve acted fairly and followed fair procedures in dismissing you, including by giving appropriate warnings and carefully following the workplace’s written disciplinary procedures.
- They can disprove any allegation you make that you’re being let go for unfair reasons.
The following reasons for dismissal are automatically unfair:
- Joining a trade union or engaging in trade union activities
- Religious or political opinions
- Being involved in legal proceedings against your employer, including as a witness
- Your race, colour, sexual orientation, age or membership of the Traveller community
- Pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding or anything connected with these
- Using your legal rights such as those to parental leave or carer’s leave
- Unfair selection for redundancy.
The following are considered fair grounds for dismissal if they can be proved and proper procedures are followed to address them before moving to dismissal:
- Lack of capability; including lateness, absenteeism or persistent absence from work.
- Lack of competence or ability to do your job.
- Lack of qualifications, especially if you lied about what qualifications you had.
- Bad conduct. Major incidents of misconduct may result in instant dismissal without notice. These include assault, drunkenness, stealing and bullying in the workplace.
- Where you continuing in your job would break the law, for example when a professional driver loses their driving licence.
- Other ‘substantial grounds’ which are up to your employer to prove justify you losing your job.
What to do if you’ve been unfairly dismissed
If you think you’ve been unfairly let go, you can make a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission within six months of your date of dismissal. This can be extended to twelve months if you can prove there was a good reason for the delay. You can use the online complaint form to register your case. If you’re a member of a trade union, you should talk to your union representative before taking this action as they can guide and support you through the process. If you’re not satisfied with the decision of the Workplace Relations Commission, you can make an appeal to the Labour Court.