HR Alert - Unfair dismissal rule change

EMPLOYEES will have to wait longer to bring a claim for unfair dismissal under major new laws that come into effect in April.

EMPLOYEES will have to wait longer to bring a claim for unfair dismissal under major new laws that come into effect in April.

Currently the required qualifying period enabling employees to raise a claim is one year but from April 6, this increases to two years for new employees only. The government says the move is designed to "provide more time for employers and employees to resolve difficulties, give employers greater confidence in taking on people and ease the burden on the employment tribunal processes".

The predicted drop in unfair dismissal claims as a result of the change will save British businesses an estimated £6 million a year.

However, the changes may see an increase in the number of discrimination claims made, as this does not involve any service requirement and may be a way for an employee to get their claim into a tribunal.

From April 6, the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from £68,400 to £72,300.

Other measures coming into force on that date are changes to the employment tribunal procedure. These include a requirement for costs to be paid up-front in order to lodge a tribunal claim, the right for employment judges to hear some unfair dismissal cases alone and witness statements being ‘taken as read’ unless the tribunal directs otherwise.

These measures should speed up the tribunal process as the judge will be able to proceed on the assumption that everyone has read the witness statements, meaning they will no longer have to be read aloud at a hearing.

Another proposal is to fine an employer if they lose a tribunal case. This would be in addition to any damages awarded and will be 50 per cent of the award to the employee, subject to a lower limit of £100 and an upper limit of £5,000.