The Government is contemplating increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims from one to two years.

Lord Young, who was yesterday appointed as the new “Enterprise Tsar”, confirmed on Radio Four’s Today programme this morning that as part of his review on how the Government can support small and medium-sized businesses, he would be examining this aspect of the unfair dismissal system.

The last time the qualifying period was increased to two years was back in 1985. A legal challenge was mounted on the grounds it was sex discriminatory, as women were less able to satisfy this requirement. In R v Secretary of State ex parte Seymour-Smith the House of Lords ruled by a majority of three to two that it was justifiable as a measure for encouraging employers to take on new staff.

It remains to be seen whether the Government will have the stomach to push through a change to a provision which has worked relatively satisfactorily in the face of what will undoubtedly be strong union opposition.