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Unfair and wrongful dismissal claims

Wrongful dismissal v Unfair dismissal

Wrongful dismissal claims focus purely on whether your contract was terminated in accordance with the terms of your contract. Unfair dismissal claims look at the reasons why your employment was terminated and whether these are valid under prevailing employment law.

The cost of not doing it properly

It is really important to seek specialist employment legal advice, otherwise you may:

  • Invalidate or limit the scope and/or value of your claim by not following the correct procedures or incorrectly or not fully explaining your claims
  • Fail to identify and make the most of your ‘negotiating hand’
  • Make unfavourable decisions or attend key meetings ill-prepared without the benefit of timely professional advice
  • Lose at the Employment Tribunal despite having a good underlying case

Unfair dismissal

If you are facing disciplinary or capability/performance proceedings then you may want to take advice about the likelihood of dismissal, and what you can do to protect yourself as far as possible. We can assist you with this, and we can give you a preliminary view of your prospects of bringing a successful unfair dismissal claim in the event that your employment is terminated. In short, we can work with you to explore a range of tactics and options, all geared toward securing the best possible outcome for you. 

Constructive dismissal

If you have resigned or are contemplating resignation because of unfair treatment at work, then you may be able to bring a claim for constructive dismissal. In order to succeed in this claim, you would have to prove that your employer committed a serious breach of contract. For example, they may have forced you to accept unreasonable changes to your employment, they may have demoted you or failed to pay you, or they may have allowed your colleagues to harass or bully you.

You may be considering resignation because of one very serious incident, or a series of less serious incident which, when taken together, could be considered to be a serious breach of your employer’s obligations to you.

Making a successful case for constructive dismissal is usually more difficult than that of straightforward unfair dismissal (where you have been sacked) as you need to show that your resignation was a direct response to your employer’s breach of contract. If you wait too long, you may not be able to prove this. It is important that you obtain legal advice before you resign to ensure that you are putting yourself in the best possible position to make a successful claim. We can advise you on the merits and risks of resigning before you do it, including advising you on the potential value of any potential claim. We will also advise you as to whether or not you should first raise a formal grievance, or whether to work your notice or leave immediately (these factors will all be taken into account by a Tribunal should it proceed that far) and we can help you to draft your resignation letter – which will be a key document in any subsequent claim.

Qualifying periods

Generally, employees are only eligible to claim unfair or constructive dismissal if they have a minimum of two years’ continuous service. However, there are many exceptions to this rule, such as if there is a discriminatory reason behind the dismissal, or if the dismissal can be shown to be ‘automatically unfair’. Deciding whether you are eligible to claim unfair/constructive dismissal is not always straightforward, and we would recommend that you seek legal advice if you are unsure.  

Wrongful dismissal

A wrongful dismissal claim is essentially a claim for damages where your employer has breached its contractual obligations. The most usual type of wrongful dismissal claim arises where an employee has been dismissed immediately for gross misconduct and the employee has not been given the opportunity to work their notice or receive a payment in lieu of notice. In some cases, the wrongful dismissal has the consequence of employees missing out on other benefits that would have accrued during their notice period, this might include bonuses or share options.

In most circumstances, a claim for wrongful dismissal will be pursued through the employment tribunal, but in some circumstances we may advise you to claim compensation in the civil courts instead. 

Time limits

There are very strict time limits for making claims in the employment tribunal. In most cases, you have three months minus one day to submit your claim to a tribunal. The clock usually starts running from the date the problem at work happened. In the case of unfair, constructive and wrongful dismissals, this time limit starts from the last day of your employment.  Because of the very short time limits involved in employment claims, it is important that you seek advice as soon as possible.


We understand that costs can be a considerable concern for our clients, which is why we offer transparent and flexible fee options including fixed fee and hourly rate options.

It is important to understand that not all unfair or wrongful dismissal claims proceed all the way to the Employment Tribunal. In many cases, particularly with the help of experienced employment lawyers, the parties settle before incurring significant costs or time. Early advice from us will improve your chances of reaching a favourable settlement.

As a general rule, your legal costs are not recoverable in the Employment Tribunal, which means that parties usually pay for their own legal costs. We have set out our typical charges for running  a case to a full hearing below. 

Our typical charges for wrongful and unfair dismissal claims

We tailor our support to your circumstances and requirements. The charges can vary in a number of ways dependent upon factors such as:

  • The simplicity (or otherwise) of the facts in the case
  • The number of witnesses and documents that you, or your employer, put forward
  • Whether a preliminary hearing is held to review a particular point before the claim proceeds
  • Whether either party makes an application at any stage
  • The conduct and/or tactics of (the person/organisation representing) your employer (charges will be very different in a case where no real challenges are made or communications are received after the initial response to the claim and one where every step is challenged or communications are frequent)
  • How often you make contact with us

As a result, our charges will need to take these aspects into account. Note also that, if you have employment claims’ cover (for example, as an ‘add-on’ to your household insurance), then you may be able to recover these costs from your insurer.

Our fees for a wrongful or unfair dismissal claim, taken all the way through to a final hearing and covering the key stages outlined below, start from £6,000 (7,200 inc VAT).This assumes the most simple and straightforward unfair dismissal claim involving, amongst other things, simple facts and minimal documentary evidence, no more than one witness for either party, no preliminary hearings or applications and minimal communications with your employer.

Typically wrongful or unfair dismissal claims can involve significant documentary evidence, several witnesses and challenges from the other party. As a guide, our fees, on average, for a wrongful or unfair dismissal claim, taken all the way to a final hearing and covering the key stages outlined below, are £14,700 (£17,640 inc VAT). These fees are based on the following hourly rates: partner-level solicitor £378 inc VAT; solicitor £234 inc VAT; trainee solicitor £144 inc VAT. Higher hourly rates may apply in cases where our advice is being sought at short notice and we need to prioritise and resource accordingly.

None of the figures above take into account unfair dismissal claims which are accompanied by other more complex claims such as the following (non-exhaustive) examples:-

  • Discrimination claims
  • Whistleblowing claims
  • Equal pay claims

In cases involving other complex issues, we will provide a quotation for the work bespoke to your particular circumstances.

Key stages

The fees set out above cover all of the work in relation to the following key stages of a claim:

  • Taking your initial instructions, reviewing the papers and advising you on merits and likely compensation (this is likely to be revisited throughout the matter and subject to change)
  • Entering into pre-claim conciliation where this is mandatory to explore whether a settlement can be reached;
  • Preparing claim or response
  • Reviewing and advising on claim or response from other party
  • Exploring settlement and negotiating settlement throughout the process
  • preparing or considering a schedule of loss
  • Preparing for (and attending) a Preliminary Hearing
  • Exchanging documents with the other party and agreeing a bundle of documents
  • Taking witness statements, drafting statements and agreeing their content with witnesses
  • Preparing bundle of documents
  • Reviewing and advising on the other party's witness statements
  • Agreeing a list of issues, a chronology and/or cast list
  • Preparation and attendance at Final Hearing, including instructions to Counsel

The stages set out above are an indication and if some of stages above are not required, the fee will be reduced. You may wish to handle the claim yourself and only have our advice in relation to some of the stages. This can also be arranged having regard to your individual needs and budget.

Typical third party charges (disbursements)

Our fees do not include Counsel's fees for representing you at a hearing which are estimated between £1,200 (inc VAT) per day and £4,800 (inc VAT) per day (depending on the seniority of the barrister).

Other charges which may apply in more unusual situations:

  • Travel costs
  • Postage costs (for posting larger, heavier items such as case bundles)

Our expertise

Your matter will predominantly be looked after by a qualified, regulated solicitor who focuses exclusively on employment law and the majority of the work will be undertaken by them directly. From time to time, they may delegate certain aspects of the work, under their supervision, to a trainee solicitor. Click on the 'Meet the team' button on this page for more details about our employment law advisers.