The Government announced this week that they are considering increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one year to two years’ service.

If the proposal goes ahead, It could be good news for employers but bad news for employees.

Employees would have to have one extra year’s service than is currently the rule before they would be entitled to claim unfair dismissal, therefore providing employees with less protection regarding their employment.

Employers will be able dismiss employees with a greater degree of flexibility and without having to justify reasonableness or fairness when an employee has been in post for less than two years.  Employers will, however, still face allegations of discrimination related unfair dismissal where there is no qualifying period (i.e. whistle-blowing, health and safety and maternity dismissals).

As there is no need for an Act of Parliament, just an Order by the Minister for Employment Relations under the Employment Rights Act 1996, this change could potentially happen quite quickly.

The length of service needed to qualify for unfair dismissal rights changed to two years between the years 1985 to 1999 and was subsequently changed back to one year.  The current suggestion of increase is no surprise given the current economic climate and if agreed, allows employer’s greater flexibility and reduced risk when making commercial decisions regarding employees.