Changes to unfair dismissal announced

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Posted in:HR and Employment|October 18, 2011 | Join the mailing list

The Government has announced that the qualifying period for protection from unfair dismissal will increase from the current one year to two years from April 2012. It is claimed that this change "could save nearly £6 million a year
for British business" and the aim is "to increase business confidence to take on more workers."

It has also been confirmed that fees will be introduced for bringing Employment Tribunal claims from April 2013. The amount of these fees has yet to be confirmed, however, there are rumours that fees for filing claims could be around £250 with an additional
fee of £1,000 payable upon the claim being listed for hearing – which will only be refunded if the employee wins.

Alison Loveday of Berg  has commented that: "Although some employers will welcome the changes, employers should be aware that discrimination claims and other claims such as victimisation and whistleblowing, are not subject to any qualifying period and can be
brought by an employee at any time during the course of their employment. Furthermore, employees are entitled to claim unfair dismissal from day one in certain circumstances, such as where the reason for dismissal is related to an employee’s pregnancy or a
health and safety reason.

"If an employee does not have the requisite period of service – whether that be one or two years – then it is not unusual for them to try and pursue one of the claims which do not have a minimum service requirement. Therefore, there may be an increase in the
number of discrimination claims, particularly when coupled with the abolition of the default retirement age, which it is anticipated may result in an increase in the number of age discrimination claims. Such claims are more complex in their nature and are
likely to be more expensive and time consuming to defend when compared to a straightforward claim for unfair dismissal.

"Employers should take this opportunity now, before the new rules come into force in April 2012, to ensure that they have proper procedures in place to identify workplace issues at an early stage and deal with any potential grievances. Furthermore, it is strongly
advised that employers ensure that their Equality and Diversity and Bullying and Harassment policies are up-to-date and fully implemented with proper training having been provided to staff at all levels. It is also advised that employees are placed on an initial
probationary period for the first few months of employment to give employers more flexibility to assess an employee’s performance and suitability for a particular role. Taking these steps should help minimise the risk of claims or at least put the employer
in the best position to defend such claims."

For more information in respect of the Government’s announcement on the new Tribunal rules, please follow this link:

http://nds.coi.gov.uk/content/Detail.aspx?ReleaseID=421449&NewsAreaID=2

To discuss how we can provide further advice in connection with these issues, please contact Alison Loveday, Partner and Head of our Employment team, by email to alisonl@berg.co.uk or alternatively
you can call Alison on 0161 833 9211.

The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No responsibility for article’s accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg
or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of the contents of this article.

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