Increase in unfair dismissal qualifying period

On 6 April 2012, the “Unfair Dismissal and Statement of Reasons for Dismissal (Variation of Qualifying Period) Order 2012” (the “Order”) came into force.

The Order has amended the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996), to increase the qualifying period to claim unfair dismissal from one year to two years. It has also increased the qualifying period for entitlement to written reasons for dismissal from one year to two years as well.

The changes will not affect those employees whose period of continuous employment begins before 6 April 2012.

So what does this mean?

Employees recruited prior to 6 April 2012 can still be dismissed within their first year of service without being able to claim to unfair dismissal (but employers do need to be wary of whether such an employee fall into a category where they may be able to claim discrimination) and do not need to be provided with written reasons for their dismissal (although it is good practice to provide this).

Due the above mentioned changes, any employee recruited on or after 6 April 2012 can be dismissed within the first two years of service without being able to claim unfair dismissal or be entitled to written reasons for their dismissal thus giving employers greater strength to dismiss employees who are, for example, underperforming or who have committed acts of misconduct without needing to go through a disciplinary procedure.