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More about The Law at Work

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Employment law is different from other types of law which means that it is often misunderstood. For example, in unfair dismissal, employers do not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a disciplinary offence had taken place. It will be sufficient for employers to show that they reasonably believed the disciplinary offence had taken place. Of course, there is more to unfair dismissal than this, but it is important to note that unfair dismissal is governed by statute. This was made clear by Phillips J in W Devis & Sons Ltd v Atkins [1976] 2 All ER 822 at 828, 11 ITR 15 at 22, QBD when he said:

'The expression "unfair dismissal" is in no sense a common-sense expression capable of being understood by the man in the street, which at first sight, one would think that it is. In fact, under the 1974 Act, it is narrowly and to some extent arbitrarily defined. And so the concept of unfair dismissal is not really a common-sense concept; it is a form of words which could be translated as being equivalent to dismissal "contrary to the statute" and to which the label "unfair dismissal" has been given'.


In effect, a dismissal must be for one of the "potentially" fair reasons stated in the Act (which is the Employment Rights Act 1996). This is why it is important to seek advice about workplace challenges or a prospective Employment Tribunal claim.

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