Q: What are the changes to the unfair dismissal rules?
A: The right not to be unfairly dismissed is a major employment law right. Employees who have been dismissed can, subject to qualifying conditions, claim that their dismissal was unfair. Employees must have a minimum qualifying period of continuous service at the effective date of termination to be able to claim unfair dismissal. As part of its initiative to boost economic growth, the current Government has increased the qualifying period to two years.
The increase in the unfair dismissal qualifying period is not retrospective. The new requirement to have two years’ service before qualifying for the right to bring a claim applies only to employees whose employment with their employer commenced on or after 6 April 2012. The one-year continuous service qualifying period continues to apply to employees whose period of service began prior to 6 April 2012.
To establish whether or not an employee is able to claim unfair dismissal, it is necessary to establish his or her continuity of service. Continuous service is measured by the period of time that the employee has worked for the employer, or an associated employer, at the effective date of termination, without a break.
There has been much speculation about the potential impact of the increase in the unfair dismissal qualifying period. Given that fewer employees will be able to claim that their dismissal is unfair based on length of service, the view is that there may be an increase in the number of claims brought for reasons that do not require a qualifying period or an increase in claims that the dismissal is for one of the reasons that are automatically unfair that do not require a period of qualifying service.