Recent press reports have suggested that the government is proposing to increase the qualifying period that an employee needs to work before bringing a claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years. We have been there before, as the qualifying period was two years prior to 1999.
Employers may welcome the proposals as it would mean a reduced obligation to carry out a reasonable process based on a fair reason when considering dismissal of an employee of less than two years service. However, the proposals should be met with some caution as claims such as discrimination or whistle blowing do not require a qualify period and employees may choose to bring a claim for, for example, discrimination, where they have insufficient service for a claim for unfair dismissal. That claim would be, for the employer, more expensive and time consuming to defend.
In addition, the government is proposing a claim fee to act as a disincentive to issuing claims with little prospect of success. Some suggest this may be as much as £500 while others suggest it shall be based on the employee’s pay. Inevitably, should the claim succeed, that cost would be passed on to the employer.
The suggested changes are in response to pressure from employers regarding spurious claims made by employees and also in response to the surge in claims at the Tribunal. However, the changes are unlikely to significantly reduce the number of overall claims issued as employees will instead make claims that require no qualifying period.
In any event, employers should seek legal advice when dismissing employees with insufficient service as an employee’s notice period may bring their service over the two year period.
We await the announcement of any consultation phase and shall post an update when that is released.