Making a political point – the Government announces a significant change to unfair dismissal laws

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Posted in:HR and Employment|February 21, 2013 | Join the mailing list

Berg’s employment team partner, Nigel Crebbin talks us through the case that led to the Government’s plan to change the law this summer to enable employees (irrespective of how long they have worked) to bring an employment
tribunal claim for unfair dismissal if dismissal was on the grounds of political opinion or affiliation.

The case concerned the dismissal of Mr Redfearn, a driver for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities, who was a prominent member of the British National Party (BNP). His employer’s clients were 70 to 80% of Asian ethnic
origin and their workforce around 35% and Mr Redfearn’s membership of the BNP was a big issue for them. Mr Redfearn had less than one year’s employment and was dismissed by his employer. Under the rules at that time (it’s currently two years for employees
whose employment began on or after 6th April 2012), with less than one year’s service Mr Redfearn was not allowed to make an unfair dismissal claim.

Mr Redfearn, however, embarked on a controversial legal battle and eventually took his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and won. In November 2012, the ECHR issued an important and controversial judgment that UK
employment law was in breach of obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, because it did not allow people who had been dismissed on the grounds of their political opinion or affiliation to bring unfair dismissal claims unless they had one
year’s employment.

The UK Government will now change the laws in relation to unfair dismissal, so that if an employee is dismissed because of their political opinion or affiliation, they will be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim, irrespective of how long
they worked for their employer. The change is likely to come into effect in early summer 2013.

Nigel Crebbin, Berg said: "An important point to note is that the new laws will not make dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation automatically unfair. It will still be up to the employment tribunal to decide whether the dismissal
was a fair and reasonable one.

"As ever, this will largely depend upon the particular individual circumstances of the case. For example; whether the employee’s political opinion or affiliation posed a genuine and significant threat to their employer’s business, or ran
counter to an ethos on which the employer’s business was based.

"It’s clear, that once the change comes in, employers will need to consider things very carefully before dismissing an employee for holding a political view with which the employer disagrees. However another important point to remember is
that the change will not affect all types of unfair dismissal claim. The required qualifying period of two years’ service (for employees whose employment began on or after 6th April 2012) does and will still apply for most other dismissals."

For more information about any of the above or for practical commercial employment advice on this or any other aspect of employment law, please contact Nigel Crebbin or Claire Haworth of the Berg Employment Team on 0161 833 9211 or
email us at or

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The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its 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 this article.

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