The increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will only affect new joiners

19-01-2012 12:19

In October 2011 the government announced that the qualifying period for an employee to bring a claim of unfair dismissal would be raised from one year to two years continuous service.  The government made no statement at the time as to how it would deal with existing employees.

It has now been indicated by BIS (department for Business Innovation and Skills) (although no formal announcement has been made) that the change, subject to Parliamentary approval, will come into effect on 6 April 2012 and will only affect new joiners.  Employees who are already in employment at that date will retain the one year qualifying period.  This is the same approach that the government has taken in the past with similar changes.

This is just one of the changes in the government’s proposals to reform employment law.  A further change on the horizon that will not sit well employers is the government’s proposal to implement financial penalties for employers who lose at tribunal.  The penalty is set to be half of the Tribunal award with a minimum and maximum threshold of £100 to £5000.  The penalty is not automatic and will be at the discretion of the tribunal.  It will be some time before we know on what basis that discretion will be exercised.   On a slightly brighter note (only very slightly I know) the penalty will be reduced by 50% if paid within a 21 day period.  This proposal reinforces the need for an employer to take good quality legal advice on the prospects of defending a tribunal claim at a very early stage.  

If you would like any further information on the above or any aspect of employment law please contact Christina Merrington (

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