A dismissal is when an employer ends an employee's contract. It usually means the same as being sacked or fired.

It's important that an employer uses a fair and reasonable procedure to decide whether to dismiss someone.

If they do not, an employee could make a claim for unfair dismissal, even if the reason for dismissing them was valid.

Reasons for fair dismissal

By law, there are 5 potential reasons for dismissing someone fairly. These are:

  • conduct – when the employee has done something that's inappropriate or not acceptable
  • capability – when the employee is not able to do the job or does not have the right qualifications
  • redundancy – when the job is no longer needed
  • a legal reason – when the employee cannot do their job legally, for example a lorry driver who's banned from driving
  • 'some other substantial reason' – a term used for a wide variety of other situations

Other substantial reasons could include things like:

  • a fixed-term contract ending
  • third party pressure, for example if a client refuses to work with an employee
  • an employee refusing to agree to new terms and conditions of employment


Redundancy is usually a type of dismissal when a role is no longer needed. Employers should only consider making redundancies if part or all of the business or organisation is:

  • closing, or has already closed
  • changing the types or number of roles needed to do certain work
  • changing location

In this case, the employer must follow a full redundancy process.

If an employer has concerns about an employee’s conduct or performance, they need to follow a disciplinary or capability procedure.

Find out more about:

Dismissing someone because of coronavirus (COVID-19)

During the coronavirus pandemic, employees have the same rights as usual to not be unfairly dismissed.

If an employer feels they need to dismiss someone because they do not have any work for them, they may need to consider other options. For example, they might be able to agree to change the employee's working hours.

As a last resort, employers might need to consider redundancy.

Find out more about:

Last reviewed