On the 6thApril 2012 the qualifying period of employment giving an employee the right to sue for unfair dismissal is to be increased from one to two years. The change is aimed to increase business confidence and could save British business nearly £6 million per year.
However, the change will only apply to employees commencing work on or after the 6thApril 2012, and those employed prior to this date will retain the current one year qualifying period.
In its response to the changes, the Government indicated that businesses have said the longer qualifying period would encourage them to hire new personnel but it remains to be seen as to whether or not this will be the case. Many employers continue to use probationary periods and in any event utilise the twelve month period under the current legislation, which effectively gives them time to decide whether or not an employee is suitable.
Although the number of unfair dismissal claims reduced from 57,400 in 2009-2010 to 47,900 in 2010-2011, nevertheless there are concerns that the increase to the qualifying period could result in more employees bringing whistleblowing and/or claims for discrimination. This is because an employee doesn’t have to complete a minimum period of qualifying employment to bring these claims, and there are also no maximum levels of compensation for complaints of this nature. Sensible employers will make sure they have adequate training and/or systems in place to minimise exposure to such actions.
If you have any questions relating to this article or feel your business would benefit from in-house training our Employment Team would be more than happy to assist.