As a general rule, employees must have at least 2 years’ continuous employment to qualify for the right not to be unfairly dismissed.
In an unfair dismissal case, the employer must be able to show that the employee was dismissed for a potentially fair reason. The potentially fair reasons are:
- Capability (which encompasses both poor performance and ill health)
- Contravention of statute
- Some other substantial reason
The second stage of the enquiry is for the employment tribunal to decide whether the employer acted reasonably or unreasonably in treating the potentially fair reason as a sufficient reason to dismiss the employee. In the famous case of Iceland Frozen Foods Ltd v Jones  IRLR 439, the Employment Appeal Tribunal explained this test as “whether in the particular circumstances of each case the decision to dismiss the employee fell within the band of reasonable responses which a reasonable employer might have adopted”.
Fair procedure is an important component in the test of overall fairness. Employers are expected to comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
If the employment tribunal finds that the employee has been unfairly dismissed, the employee is entitled to ask to be restored to his old job (reinstatement), to be taken on in a different role (re-engagement), or to be compensated for his financial losses. In practice, compensation is by far the most common remedy.