A common law action for wrongful dismissal can at most yield compensation measured by reference to the salary that should have been paid during the contractual period of notice. Lord Reid said: ‘At common law a master is not bound to hear his servant before he dismisses him. He can act unreasonably or capriciously if he so chooses but the dismissal is valid. The servant has no remedy unless the dismissal is in breach of contract and then the servant’s only remedy is damages for breach of contract.’
Lord Wilberforce said: ‘As a general principle, I respectfully agree: and I think it important not to weaken a principle which, for reasons of public policy, applies, at least as a starting point, to so wide a range of the public service. The difficulty arises when, as here, there are other incidents of the employment laid down by statute, or regulations, or code of employment, or agreement. The rigour of the principle is often, in modern practice, mitigated for it has come to be perceived that the very possibility of dismissal without reason being given – action which may vitally affect a man’s career or his pension – makes it all the more important for him, in suitable circumstances, to be able to state his case and, if denied the right to do so, to be able to have his dismissal declared void. So, while the courts will necessarily respect the right, for good reasons of public policy, to dismiss without assigned reasons, this should not, in my opinion, prevent them from examining the framework and context of the employment to see whether elementary rights are conferred on him expressly or by necessary implication, and how far these extend.’ and
‘The appellant has first to show that his position was such that he had, in principle, a right to make representations before a decision against him was taken. But to show this is not necessarily enough, unless he can also show that if admitted to state his case he had a case of substance to make. A breach of procedure, whether called a failure of natural justice, or an essential administrative fault, cannot give him a remedy in the courts, unless behind it there is something of substance which has been lost by the failure. The court does not act in vain . .’
Lord Reid said: ‘At common law a master is not bound to hear his servant before he dismisses him. He can act unreasonably or capriciously if he so chooses but the dismissal is valid. The servant has no remedy unless the dismissal is in breach of contract and then the servant’s only remedy is damages for breach of contract.’
Lord Reid, Lord Wilberforce
 1 WLR 1578,  2 All ER 1278
Cited – Johnson v Unisys Ltd HL 23-Mar-2001
The claimant contended for a common law remedy covering the same ground as the statutory right available to him under the Employment Rights Act 1996 through the Employment Tribunal system.
Held: The statutory system for compensation for unfair . .
Cited – Dunnachie v Kingston Upon Hull City Council CA 11-Feb-2004
Compensation for non-economic loss brought about by the manner of an unfair dismissal is, on authority and on principle, recoverable. The award of such compensation by the employment tribunal in the present case was not excessive and was adequately . .
Cited – Eastwood and another v Magnox Electric plc; McCabe v Cornwall County Council and others HL 15-Jul-2004
The first claimants were long standing employees. Mr Eastwood fell out with his manager, who disciplined him using false statements. When Williams refused to provide a false statement he too was disciplined. Each claimed damages for the injury to . .
Cited – Percy v Church of Scotland Board of National Mission HL 15-Dec-2005
The claimant appealed after her claim for sex discrimination had failed. She had been dismissed from her position an associate minister of the church. The court had found that it had no jurisdiction, saying that her appointment was not an . .
Cited – GAB Robins (UK) Ltd v Triggs CA 30-Jan-2008
The claimant had been awarded damages for unfair constructive dismissal. The employer appealed an award of damages for the period prior to the acceptance by the employee of the repudiatory breach.
Held: Where a claimant’s losses arose before . .
Cited – Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust CA 26-May-2010
The claimant, a consultant doctor, sought damages saying that his employer had failed to follow the contract when disciplining and dismissing him. The GMC had dismissed as unfounded the allegation on which the dismissal was based. He sought damages . .
Cited – Shoesmith, Regina (on The Application of) v OFSTED and Others CA 27-May-2011
The claimant appealed against dismissal of her claim. She had been head of Child Services at Haringey. After the notorious violent death of Baby P, the Secretary of State called for an inquiry under the Act. He then removed her as director. She . .
See Also – Malloch v Aberdeen Corporation SCS 1-Jun-1973
Cited – Regina (Tucker) v Director General of the National Crime Squad CA 17-Jan-2003
The applicant was a senior officer seconded to the National Crime Squad. He complained that his secondment had been terminated in a manner which was unfair, and left him tainted without opportunity to reply. He appealed against rejection of his . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 September 2021; Ref: scu.182114