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    Unfair dismissal changes on April 6 2011

    On April 6 2012, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal rights will increase from one to two years. Does this change apply to your existing employees, or only those who are recruited on and after this date?

    The Law on unfair dismissal
    As the law currently stands, once an employee completes one year of continuous employment they gain protection against unfair dismissal. Back in October, the government announced plans to double this qualifying period – in other words, this right would only kick in after an individual has completed two years’ service.

    Note. This change is now due to take effect on April 6 2012. At that point, the law will effectively revert to its pre-1999 position.

    Forthcoming changes
    However, when the government initially set out this controversial proposal it didn’t indicate whether the change would apply to existing employees. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has now stated that “the new two-year qualifying period will only apply to employees whose employment begins on or after April 6 2012”. Those who are already in employment before this date will retain their current rights.

    The practical effect
    For example, this means that where an employee has:

    •    Ten months’ continuous service on April 6 2012, they’ll still only have to wait two months before they can issue an unfair dismissal claim; or

    •    18 months’ continuous service on April 6 2012 they won’t lose their right to claim unfair dismissal.

    New recruits
    On the other hand, employees recruited on, or after; April 6 2012 won’t accrue this particular right until the second anniversary of their employment, i.e. on April 6 2014 at the earliest.

    Tip 1. Therefore, if you’re considering hiring any staff now, or will be doing so in the near future, you might want to delay their start dates by a few weeks.

    Tip 2. Don’t forget though that April 6 and 9 this year are bank holidays (Good Friday and Easter Monday). So if you don’t need your new staff to work on these days, postpone their employment until on or after, April 10.

    Tip 3. If you give staff bank holidays in addition to their minimum statutory annual leave entitlement, you’ll also save yourself two days’ pay in this leave year if they start on the later date.

    Hidden risk
    Although the change to unfair dismissal rights is arguably a good thing for employers, employees will still be able to claim automatic unfair dismissal from day one of their employment. We previously looked at this particular right and how you can avoid the risks (yr.13, iss.10, pg7, see The next step). As a result, it’s imperative that employers have a robust equal opportunities and dignity at work policy and follow it to the letter.

    The next step
    For the link to the previous article (PS 14.04.03A), and for a free sample equal opportunities and dignity at work policy (PS 14.04.03B), visit https://personnel.indicator.co.uk.

    The new two-year qualifying period will only apply to employees whose employment begins on, or after, April 6 2012; those already in employment before this date will continue to accrue unfair dismissal rights after one year. So if you’re thinking of recruiting, you might want to delay taking on any new staff.
     
    Tips & Advice Personnel 16.02.12