Qualifying period for unfair dismissal increases

As some may have seen in the news, there has been a recent change in the law relating to unfair dismissal.

The period for which a person must have been in continuous employment before they can make a claim for being unfairly dismissed has increased from the previous one year to two years.

This requirement is not retrospective; it only applies to those who have been appointed to their job on or after 6 April 2012. Those who were appointed earlier are unaffected and need to show only one year’s continuous service. As time passes the new limit will be of greater importance for those who have only just now and afterwards become employed.

It is important to remember that although as a general rule there will be a requirement of two years in continuous employment, the requirement has exceptions.

Those who are automatically unfairly dismissed, for example because of maternity or other discrimination, assertion of a statutory right, or whistleblowing, do not have to show continuous employment and may claim at whatever stage their situation arises. It is important to get advice from a lawyer to ensure that any such automatic claims are identified early.

This time requirement also affects the right to seek written reasons for a dismissal. Those appointed on or after 6 April 2012 will only have the right to request written reasons after two years’ service, whilst those appointed earlier have the right after one year in post.

Remember too that the Employment Tribunal continues to have a relatively short time limit for the bringing of claims, so it remains important to get advice early.

The Government hopes that this change will reduce the burden on Employment Tribunals (for which you can read “enable more people to be dismissed without being able to claim”). It remains to be seen what the true impact is, but this is why it is so important to ensure that any exceptions to the requirement are identified.