As part of its “One-in, One-out” review of regulation, the UK government has this week confirmed that it is increasing the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years. Simon Tytherleigh, partner at international law firm Eversheds, comments:

“This Spring, the UK Government consulted over its plan to increase the unfair dismissal qualifying period to two years. At the time, employers were doubtful as to whether an increase of the qualifying period would meet the stated aim of giving businesses more confidence to recruit. However, the proposal did find favour for other reasons, for example, in our survey of more than 600 employers 78 per cent believed that raising the qualifying period would result in a drop in tribunal claims.
“For the first time we now have confirmation that the Government is pressing ahead with doubling the qualifying period, despite not, as yet, publishing its formal response to the consultation exercise. While this news will undoubtedly receive a hostile reception amongst the trade unions, it will be welcomed by employers as tangible evidence of the Government’s stated aim of reducing employment red tape.

“But concerns will remain that increasing the period may encourage new litigation, for example, to challenge its impact on women – a challenge that was successful when the qualifying period was previously set at two years. However, the basis of such a claim is currently uncertain and would depend on complex and changing statistical evidence. Alternately, employees may seek to circumvent the period by submitting tribunal complaints on other grounds, for example, whistle-blowing and discrimination, for which the qualifying period does not apply. “