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What’s the difference between unfair dismissal, redundancy and termination?
Termination of employment: the difference between unfair dismissal and redundancy

Our Which? Legal experts look at termination of employment, and the difference between unfair dismissal and redundancy.

Notice required to terminate a Contract of Employment

The employer or the employee can terminate an employment contract, by giving notice to the other. If the employer terminates the contract, the employee is ‘dismissed’. If the employee terminates, they ‘resign’.

In any event, the amount of notice either must give to terminate depends on what is provided for in the contract agreed between them, assuming the contractual notice is the same if not more than the statutory minimum notice that needs to be given.  Statutory minimum notice from the employer is one week if the employee has worked for between one month and two years, and thereafter one week for each full year they have worked up to a maximum of 12 weeks. If the employee has worked for at least one month, they must give at least one week's notice to leave.


Unfair dismissal

If your employer terminates your employment you may be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. 

Only ‘employees’ have the right to bring unfair dismissal claims (‘workers’ and the self-employed do not have this protection). Also, in most cases, employees will need to have at least two years’ continuous employment before they have unfair dismissal rights. 


There are five potentially fair reasons for an employer to terminate employment: capability or qualifications, conduct, redundancy, breach of a statutory duty or restriction and " some other substantial reason" (SOSR).  


Whether or not a dismissal is fair will depend on a number of factors, including: your length of service, the reason for terminating your employment, and the process your employer followed (or failed to follow). 


For more information about unfair dismissal, the circumstances in which you don’t need to have been employed for two years’ in order to bring a claim, and the deadline in which to issue a claim, read our Unfair Dismissal guide.



There are three situations when an employee may be made redundant:

  • the closure of a business as a whole;

  • the closure of a particular workplace where the employee was employed;

  • a reduction in the size of the workforce; i.e. where the requirements of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind have or are expected to cease or diminish.

For more information on your rights when facing redundancy (ie. what amounts to a fair redundancy process and what payments you should receive), please download our Redundancy Guide.


If you need advice, would like to speak to an employment expert or are considering starting any legal claim, join Which? Legal today where one of our employment specialist can guide and support you through your situation.


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