On 6th April 2012 the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will increase from one to two years for new starters. Thus, it will only apply to those whose employment commences on or after 6 April 2012. The reason that it doesn’t apply to those already in employment before that date is because the Government introduced the measure to boost recruitment. As such, it apparently would not make sense to include those who have already been recruited. The change means someone who started before 6th April can bring an unfair dismissal claim after a year but those who start on or after that date have to wait for two years.
Therefore, if employers are planning to recruit it does make sense to delay the start date until 6th April if possible. Whether this change will reduce the number of tribunals is a matter of debate. Simon Steen of this firm is old enough to remember the last time the qualifying period for unfair dismissal was 2 years. In those days he used to deal with a lot more claims brought under one or more of the exceptions to the qualifying period rule. For example, claims for unfair dismissal caused by health and safety issues, whistleblowing and, of course, all discrimination claims, don’t need a qualifying period. This means it is likely that disgruntled employees who want to bring a claim may look to artificially bring it within one of the exemptions.
An accompanying change is that the current 1-year qualifying period to be entitled to receive a written statement of reasons for dismissal will increase to two years for employees who start their employment on or after 6 April 2012.
Employment Tribunals are also going to allow unfair dismissal claims to be heard by a tribunal judge sitting alone, without lay wing members. This will be reviewed after one year.