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Unfair dismissal changes may not boost employment

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Plans by the Government to increase the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims from one to two years may not raise recruitment levels, it has been argued.

The Department for Business has now closed its consultation on the proposed change.

In the Government’s view, the reform would offer employers greater confidence when recruiting new members of staff. In the words of the consultation paper: “It may also help improve the employment relationship, giving more time to get the relationship right and, in a modest way, reduce the number of disputes that go to employment tribunals.”

However, the Employment Lawyers Association has claimed that employers are more inclined to base recruitment decisions on the requirements of their business operations rather than on whether they might need two years in which to dismiss an employee.

The ELA said: “The exclusion of employees’ unfair dismissal rights for a further year seems to be a disproportionate method of achieving a boost to recruitment.”

It is estimated that some three million workers have been with the same employer for between one and two years, and the Department of Business has predicted that doubling the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims would cut the number of  employment tribunal claims by up to 5,000.

By the end of the first quarter of 2010, employment tribunals saw 236,100 claims, a significant rise over the past five years.

The Government consultation is reviewing several other plans that would deter what it deems ‘vexatious’ or weak claims for compensation, one of which would see the introduction of fees for employees who seek to bring an unfair dismissal complaint.

The overall purpose of the consultation is to encourage more workplace disputes to be settled earlier and during negotiations between the employer and the employee. Cases would need to be presented to the conciliation service Acas first in an effort to head off a visit to a tribunal.