Clash Over Proposals to Extend Unfair Dismissal Qualifying Period

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The Trade Union Congress (TUC) claimed in its submission in response to the Government’s review of the employment tribunal system that extending the qualifying period against unfair dismissal from one year to two years will affect almost 3 million workers, and also oppose the plans to introduce fees for those wishing to take their employers to employment tribunals. The TUC accept that more needs to be done to speed up tribunal claims but considers that it is unfair for the Government to seek to make these improvements by restricting access to justice and effectively pricing low-paid workers out of the system. Nearly 70% of tribunal claimants have either average or below-average earnings and 35% earn less than £15,000. The TUC have cited Government statistics that show young people, ethnic minorities and female part-time workers will be most affected by the current proposals.
  • 59% employees under the age of 24 have less than two years’ service

  • 30% of ethnic minority employees have less than two years’ service whereas 24% of white employees have less than two years’ service

  • 32% of part-time employees have less than two years’ service with 22% of full-time employees

  • 500,000 female part-time workers would directly lose out as a result of increasing the qualifying period to two years.
They suggest that the tribunal process can be improved by giving more resources to the tribunal system, improving enforcement of multiple pay claims and extending the ACAS pre-claim conciliation service. 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. "The proposals to restrict protection against unfair dismissal will not only hit young people and female part-time employees the hardest, but will also open the door to more discrimination claims, creating confusion for staff and employers alike. "There is no credible evidence to show that restricting access to justice actually helps our economy and it is disappointing that ministers seem so keen to boost bad employment practices. "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."   However, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have suggested that weak claims should be "weeded out", early settlements should be encouraged and claims should be dealt with more quickly if they reach the tribunal stage. The CBI submission said a "proportionate" fee should be introduced for every tribunal claim. Katja Hall, the CBI’s chief policy director, said: "It is always regrettable when the relationship between employer and employee breaks down to the point where a tribunal claim is made. "But when this happens, both sides deserve a system that is consistent, quick and keeps legal costs to a minimum. Instead, we are saddled with a tribunal system that is expensive, stressful and time-consuming for all parties. "Surely it is in everyone’s interest for cases with merit to be heard quickly and settled, while weak claims are swiftly identified and weeded out. We would like to see more workplace disputes being resolved before they reach tribunal." The CBI pointed out that claims had increased by 173% since 2005 and there was an “ever-increasing” backlog of cases. The argument continues…….

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