As has been well-touted, on 6 April the period of service needed to bring a claim of unfair dismissal rose from 1 year to 2 years.
Leaving to one side any views on whether this will effect the desired reduction in tribunal claims, or whether it’s a further curtailment of access to justice, what should employers be doing as a result of the change?
The most important matter for employers will be to focus on potential discrimination and whistle-blowing issues, as employees do not need any minimum period of service in order to being these claims.
As ever, the starting point should be your policy documents. Take the time to review your grievance, equality and diversity and whistle-blowing policies and update them if necessary. If you don’t already run training for staff on equality and diversity, make sure you introduce it. Make sure that all your managers are trained on recognising and handling grievances, whether formal or informal.
Another question that employers have been asking is whether they should change their approach to probationary periods as a result of the increase to the unfair dismissal qualifying period.
In our view, it is always better to deal with an employee who’s not performing as early as possible. Lengthening probationary periods just because you can is likely to lead to problems going unchecked.
Finally, one positive change that you can make is to consider the length of any new fixed term contracts. Although it is still necessary to have a fair reason to terminate a fixed term contract (rather than simply the contract expiring), employers can have more flexibility in offering fixed term contracts for up to two years.