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The Chancellor, George Osborne, at the Conservative Party conference last weekend confirmed that the Government would double the qualification period needed for employees to be able to claim unfair dismissal – from 1 year (which it is now) to 2 years – from April 2012. A fee will also be introduced for employees who lodge a tribunal claim (for more information see our article on how you can bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal).
This is part of the Government’s efforts to encourage growth and employment and the change had been widely speculated on during 2011. Only last week a Department of Business document entitled “One-in, One-out; Second Statement of New Regulation” revealed the change was imminent, although this was quickly denied as a ‘drafting’ error.
Reaction to the announcement has of course been mixed with the CBI calling it a ‘positive step’ that would give ‘employers, especially smaller ones, more confidence to hire’ and the British Chambers of Commerce also supporting the move. However Unions accused the Government of eroding worker’s rights for little economic gain; Unite said “how will attacking worker’s ability to secure justice create one single job? All it will do is create a hire and fire culture where bad employers cannot be challenged”.
The Chartered Institute for Personnel warned that doubling the unfair dismissal threshold would probably not reduce the overall number of employment tribunal claims, as employees are increasingly bringing discrimination claims, which won’t be affected by this change (you can bring a discrimination claim from Day 1 of your employment, and generally workers and freelancers can also bring discrimination claims).
In 2010 there were 236,000 cases of unfair dismissal at Employment Tribunals, with an average award for successful cases of nearly £9,000.
The TUC also firmly oppose the plans to introduce fees for employees to lodge a claim at employment tribunal and says this will have a disproportionate impact on low paid workers (according to a 2008 survey, nearly 70% of tribunal claimants have average or below average earnings).
More information about unfair dismissals
It’s worth remembering that from 1st October 2011 the default National Retirement Age of 65 has been removed, so if you are dismissed for reaching ‘retirement age’ you may have an unfair dismissal claim. Also, this means that before 1st October 2011 you could not bring a claim for unfair dismissal over the age of retirement – but after 1st October 2011 you can bring a claim for unfair dismissal at any age.
So who is eligible to claim unfair dismissal?
1. Can you make a claim for unfair dismissal?
Certain professions cannot ever claim this (armed forces members, police officers, self-employed workers/freelancers/independent contractors, share fishermen, registered dock workers, people that work outside of the UK).
2. Have you actually been dismissed?
You are dismissed when your Employer brings your contract to an end. All the following are dismissals:
The following are not dismissals:
3. Have you been discriminated against?
See our article about the Equality Act – if you have been discriminated against you do not need any particular length of service to claim this. If you have been dismissed for a discriminatory reason you may have been unfairly dismissed as well (but you would need one year’s service to claim unfair dismissal as well).
4. You must have worked for your Employer for one year
See above. You must have been employed for one year, in most cases, to make a claim for unfair dismissal, although there are exceptions to this, in cases of ‘automatic unfair dismissal claims’.
The following are deemed automatically unfair reasons for being dismissed (or selected for redundancy) and do not require a particular service length (unless stated):
If you have not been dismissed for one of the reasons above then the dismissal may have been fair or unfair depending on the reason for it and the procedures followed by your employer in dismissing you. You must have worked for one year for your employer in order to make a claim to an employment tribunal where you have been dismissed for one of the following reasons:
See our Guide to how your Employment can come to an end for more details.
5. Three month time limit
It is important to remember that there is a three month time limit starting from the date the employee is dismissed, during which they must make a claim to an employment tribunal.
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Darren Fell, CEO of Crunch, said: "We welcome the government's commitment to adopt the recommendations from the Taylor report. We would however, urge caution that any response does not introduce more red tape, or reduce the ability for entrepreneurs to employ people flexibly."