Three Million Workers Could Be Impacted by Unfair Dismissal Reforms

The Government’s plans to extend the qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal from one year to two will affect nearly three million workers, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

In its submission to the consultation on the reform of the dispute resolution system, the TUC says that while more needs to be done to speed up tribunal claims, the government is seeking to do this by restricting access to justice and pricing low-paid vulnerable workers out of the system.

The TUC cites government data showing that young people, ethnic minorities and female part-time workers will be most affected by plans to remove unfair dismissal rights from staff with less than two years’ service:  

  • 59.2 per cent of employees aged 24 and under have less than two years’ service,
  • 30.1 per cent of ethnic minority employees have less than two years’ service, compared with 24.3 per cent of white employees,
  • 32.4 per cent of part-time employees have less than two years’ service, compared with 22 per cent of full-time employees, and
  • 500,000 female part-time workers will lose out directly as a result of the 12- month extension to the qualifying period.

The TUC firmly opposes plans to introduce fees for those wishing to take their employers to employment tribunals, and says that this will have a disproportionate impact on low paid workers. (Nearly 70 per cent of tribunal claimants have average or below average earnings, and more than a third - 35 per cent - earn less than £15,000, according to the Survey of Employment Tribunal Applicants 2008.)

Extending the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will, according to the TUC, simply lead to more discrimination claims, causing extra confusion for employers and staff, and adding to the workload of an already over-stretched tribunal service.

Its submission says that cases can be speeded up by giving more resources to the tribunal system, improving the enforcement of multiple pay claims and extending Acas’ pre-claim conciliation service.

The TUC supports the imposition of automatic penalties for employers who breach an individual’s employment rights but believes that sanctions should be paid directly to the claimant, rather than to the Treasury.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

“While everyone wants to see a quicker and more efficient tribunal system, taking away people’s rights and pricing vulnerable workers out of the system is the worst possible way to achieve this…”

“If the Government is serious about improving the tribunal system it should concentrate much more on encouraging disputes to be resolved before they get to court.”


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