Chancellor George Osborne has announced two important changes, intended to reduce the number of employment tribunal claims and boost the economy.
First, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be increased from one year to two years with effect from 1 April 2012.
This may however be subject to a legal challenge, in due course, but obviously many employees with less than 2 years service will as a result be prevented from bringing claims for unfair dismissal.
(The legal challenge is that some claimants may be able to argue that the change constitutes an indirect sex discrimination, as this is what happened previously when the qualifying period was 2 years. That was in June 1985. It could also be argued that this change will discriminate against young people as younger workers are much less likely than others to meet the 2 years qualifying service criterion).
However there is no minimum period of employment needed for an employee to bring a claim for discrimination, and indeed an applicant for a job, who was never appointed can bring a claim for discrimination in appropriate circumstances.
Secondly, fees will be introduced for tribunal claims. It appears the following fee structure will apply, but more information is awaited
- A fee of £250 when lodging the claim with the Employment Tribunal ;
- A further fee of £1,000 payable by Claimant when the hearing is listed;
Fees will be waived for those with no money, although it remains to be seen what exactly this means, and of course many sacked employees will "have no money". Fees will also be refunded to the Claimant if the Claimant wins, forfeited if they lose.
The Government have also announced that for the next 3 weeks their "Red Tape Challenge" will focus on more than 160 different cross~Government employment related regulations that businesses have to deal with in all areas of the workplace. They are looking for a variety of suggestions about how regulations can be improved, simplified or even abolished, whilst also ensuring that the current standard of employment rights for employees is maintained.
Examples of the regulations which the Government is seeking views on include the rules on collective redundancies, employment agencies, immigration checks, the National Minimum Wage and Statutory Sick Pay, to make sure that they are "fit for purpose and easier for businesses to understand.