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October 10, 2011

As widely expected the proposal to increase the qualifying period for an employee to be able to claim unfair dismissal will increase from one year to two years, in April 2012. There are still many details to be sorted out but the Government’s aim is to increase confidence in the business world to get more employers to take staff on to boost the economy and get more people into work.

The HR Dept is all for any reduction in the red tape of employment law and this may assist in increasing confidence however the burden of an employment tribunal for any size business is always an ever present threat. Our view is that there will be an increase of workers with under two years’ service making discrimination, health and safety or whistleblowing claims, which have no qualifying period of employment. It is likely there will be an increase in the nature of these more costly and complicated claims and what is often overlooked is not the average cost of any type of award, but the cost of actually defending a claim and of course there are no average figures for any claims settled prior to a tribunal hearing.

The facts are that the qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal has chopped and changed over the years. In 1971 it was six months. It was then increased in 1980 to one year (two years for small firms with 20 or less employees) and then increased again in 1995 to two years (regardless of the number of employees or size of the employer).Then finally in June 1999 the qualifying period was reduced to one year.

Regardless of the qualifying period, our advice is always when considering dismissing a worker, take advice from your HR Dept advice line.

Another announcement sees that workers will have to pay a fee for lodging a tribunal claim from April 2013. However there is plenty of consultation that needs to take place before more details emerge including the level of the fee, which is expected to be around £150-£250 to launch a case and upwards of £1,000 if it goes to a hearing. Higher fees could be charged where litigants are seeking £30,000 or more in compensation and the fee would be returned only if the case was successful. There will be exemptions for poorer paid workers, but this is positive step forward to potentially removing vexatious claims that clog up the system and put off serial litigants.

We hope you have found this update useful. As ever, if you have any HR queries please do not hesitate to call us.

With kind regards.

Belinda Newton, Director

Tel: 0845 863 0653
Mobile: 07814 398093

The HR Dept
Hilltop House
59 Miller Way

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