Government’s planned changes to employment law

5 October 2011

The Government is increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims from one year to two years from April 2012. Additionally, they will be consulting on a proposal to introduce fees for all Employment Tribunal claims.

The Government has announced planned changes to unfair dismissal law.  George Osborne and Vince Cable have set out that the qualifying period for bringing an unfair dismissal claim will increase from one year to two years from 6 April 2012.  The stated goal is “to increase business confidence to take on more workers”.

The government estimates that by having to have two year’s service with an employer before being able to claim for unfair dismissal there will be a reduction in claims of 2,000 per year.  However, a consequence may be that more employees seek to circumvent the two-year qualifying period by claiming that their dismissal was for a reason relating to whistle-blowing or health and safety (two of a list of ‘automatically unfair dismissals’) or they may claim that their dismissal was due to discrimination ­claims all of which may well be more costly for an employer to defend.

To read the Government announcement’s on the unfair dismissal qualifying period please click here.

In addition to the scheduled plan above, the Government is currently proposing to introduce fees for lodging a claim at an Employment Tribunal.  A consultation on this proposal is due to begin before the end of November 2011 and if it goes ahead fees are likely to be introduced from April 2013.  The FT has reported that the fee could be £150-250 for filing a Claim Form with a further £1,000 fee when the case was listed for a hearing.  The fees are likely to be refunded to the Claimant if they win and lost if they lose.  The fee structure could also include an element of means testing.

At the same time the Cabinet Office has announced a “Red Tape Challenge” with the aim of reducing the employment regulations that they see as burdens on business.  They have grouped these in to four categories ­ compliance and enforcement; taking people on; managing staff; and letting people go ­ and have invited comment from employers and employees over the next three weeks.

To read about the Government’s “Red Tape Challenge” please click here.