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← Overview Database of Innovative Social Policies in Europe

Unfair dismissal reform

Country of implementation
United Kingdom
General short description of the innovation
The qualifying period for an employee to bring an unfair dismissal claim will increase from one year to two years. This means the amount of time an employee has to work for an organisation before he or she can make an unfair dismissal claim against the employer has double. The change was part of a package of reforms of the Coalition Government claimed would make it easier for businesses to take on staff or need to let it go. Continuous employment must be with the same employer throughout or with an associated employer. It is not broken on sale or other transfer of ownership on the employing business. / Nevertheless, a dismissed employee who has not completed the relevant period of service can claim compensation if they can bring their claim under one of the headings, which do not depend on completion of a period of qualifying service, such as discrimination cases and cases in which dismissal is automatically unfair dismissal. All forms of discrimination protection apply without qualifying periods. In normal unfair dismissal cases, an employment tribunal would determine if the dismissal was fair or unfair. / / In June 2013, the two-year qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal has been removed where the reason for dismissal is or relates to the employee?s political opinion or affiliation. This reform came about as a result of a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (Redfearn v United Kingdom [2013] IRLR 51).
Target group
Total Population
Policy Field
  • employment
Type of Policy
  • public
Duration of the policy
Since 2012
Scope of innovation
  • Scope: structural
  • Spatial coverage: Great Britain
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
Provide more flexibility for businesses to recruit staff. The government also hoped that with the new law the number of standard unfair dismissal claims will drop by about 2000 per year
Type of innovation
  • new policy, practice or measure
New outputs
  • regulations of the labour market
Intended target group
Working age population
  • main source of income: paid work
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
    Intended output
    • regulation of the labour market
    Clarification of outcomes in terms of impacting resilience and labour market inclusion
    There were 218,000 tribunal claims in 2010-11, a rise of 44% since 2008-09, but down on the 2009-10 figure of 236,000. Just under a quarter of cases taken to tribunal in 2010-11 involved a claim for unfair dismissal, while more than half involved alleged breaches of the working time directive (Osborne 2012). / / British Chambers of Commerce considers dismissal rules as a major barrier to growth for many businesses, whereas trade unions, such as TUC, claim this would generate a hire and fire culture and led to the creation of insecure employment (idem). TUC notably highlighted that young people, ethnic minorities and female part-time workers will be most affected because they are often employed for less than two years (TUC 2011). Others claim the law to result in employers selecting employees with less than two years? services for redundancy rather than choosing linger service employees in difficult economic situations. The latter would be more costly since employer will have pay statutory redundancy pay (Bonino 2011). / / Sources: / Bonino, R. (2011). Impact of the UK Government?s plans to increase the unfair dismissal qualifying period, Employment Law Watch, 3 October 2011. / Osborne, H. (2012). Unfair dismissal reform divides government and unions, The Guardian, 6 April 2012. / Parker, J. (2012). Unfair dismissal: qualifying service rule. / TUC (2011). Unfair dismissal reforms will leave three million workers without rights, Press Release, 8 April 2011.
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