Unfair dismissal: Changes in April 2012 to qualifying employment

The coalition Government made headlines by announcing its proposed changes to the law relating to unfair dismissal, specifically the length of service one must attain as an employee before being able to make a claim. This is to be increased from one to two years from 1 April 2012.

The above changes, broadly speaking, have been hailed by the business community. It is envisaged that they will result in fewer unfair dismissal cases coming before the Employment Tribunals. The results from the employers’ point of view, it is hoped, are a slightly lessened regulatory burden and reduced legal spend. On a somewhat wider and equally positive note, the changes may also encourage employers to be less reluctant to recruit, resulting in fewer people being out of work.

Employers should be wary of one potential effect of the above, which is that some individuals may seek to advance their cases via discrimination proceedings, which have no similar requirement that the employee must have attained a minimum length of service on the job.

We will need to see how things develop from here. It would not be surprising, however, to see an increase in the number of discrimination cases being heard by the Tribunals during the coming years.

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