The Government has announced two changes to the Employment Tribunal system, in an effort to save UK business £6 million per year. The first of these changes will see the qualifying period for the right to claim unfair dismissal doubled from one to two years. The change, which will come into force on 6 April 2012, is the latest of the Government's proposals to review existing employment laws to encourage early resolution of disputes and tackle weak claims.

As a result of the changes, an employee will need to have served at least two years' continuous employment to be able to bring a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. However claims on grounds of discrimination or whistleblowing, which currently have no qualifying period, will not be affected.

Business groups have welcomed the move as a way of combating what many employers feel is an increase in vexatious tribunal claims and of reducing the number of claims issued annually by around 2,000. However, unions have expressed concern that the change will ultimately reduce protection for employees and limit their right to challenge their employer.

The Government's second proposal is the introduction of fees for submitting employment tribunal claims. The Ministry of Justice will consult on the level of the fee by the end of November, but it is thought that from April 2013 employees could face paying up to £250 to submit a claim and at least £1,000 when the tribunal hearing date is confirmed. Fees will be higher if the claim is for more than £30,000, and in all cases will only be refunded if the claimant succeeds in their claim. However, the fee may be waived or reduced at the start of the process if the claimant is on a low income.

In a related development the Government has opened a three week consultation period for employment law as part of its ‘Red Tape Challenge' scheme, which seeks the public's views on how regulations can be improved, simplified or abolished. Responses are invited on four areas of employment law:

  • Compliance and enforcement;
  • Letting people go;
  • Managing staff; and
  • Taking people on

Comments can be made at:

http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/employment-law/