Earlier this week a reportedly leaked report suggested that the qualifying period before an employee would be able to apply for unfair dismissal was to be increased from the one to two years.
The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has since denied this saying that a final decision has yet to be reached.
The original report said “We are increasing the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years, and introducing fees for lodging employment tribunal cases to tackle vexatious claims.” The aim of this, it would appear was to ease the pressure on the courts in an increasingly litigious society.
Whilst this is surely a decision that would be greatly welcomed by employers the unions on the other hand have been infuriated. They are further maddened by the reasoning that it would lead to better job creation. “How will attacking workers’ ability to secure justice create one single job?” questioned Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite. “All it will do is create a hire and fire culture where bad employers cannot be challenged. He continued in reference to the governments belief that there are too many claims going through the courts saying “When will this government understand that there is not a culture of ‘vexatious’ claims? Proper checks and balances are in place to root out those cases,” he added. “The vast majority of workers pursuing unfair dismissal are found to have valid claims.”
The law firm Eversheds has taken a different view stating that whilst this measure could decrease the claims going through the courts it could just lead to a range of complaints by alternative methods. If you take away a person's ability to go to court then they may just look elsewhere in order to obtain the justice they seek. Rather than seeing a reduction in the claims for unfair dismissal and the like on the whole, the measure may merely create an attempt to find another stream into the estuary so to speak. This could then lead to other less funded and well staffed routes being bogged down by claims they are not experienced enough to handle. If the government want to release the pressure in this area maybe they need to take a wholly different approach. Eversheds went on to comment that those wishing to issue a claim could do so via other avenues not requiring the qualifying period such as that of “whistle-blowing”.
If someone has been dismissed on what they believe to be unfair grounds then they are likely and within their rights to look to issue a claim. Whatever avenue they may take to find a resolution, the likelihood is that the department or office or other such body will be under staffed and over worked. Perhaps the real consideration the government should address is what is it that employers can do now to prevent the circumstances under which employees wish to make any sort of claim in the first place.