The Government has announced that from 6 April 2012, the qualifying period for the right to claim unfair dismissal will be extended from the current one year to two years. The Government hope that this will reduce the number of tribunal claims brought by more than 2,000 a year, and consequently will facilitate a speeding up of the tribunal process as well as cost savings to businesses and the tribunal service.

However, there is some scepticism whether this measure will actually have any positive effect on the tribunal system or the economy. Firstly, there were around 48,000 unfair dismissal claims brought last year, and therefore reducing this number by 2,000 is unlikely to lead to dramatic improvements. Secondly, and importantly for employers, there is no qualifying period for discrimination or whistleblowing claims, and therefore individuals with less than two years’ service may well look to bring such claims instead of unfair dismissal.

Some commentators have argued that the proposals themselves may be indirectly discriminatory against young people, who are less likely to have two years’ service, and it is possible that this will lead to challenges.

The Government has also proposed that fees will be introduced, and it has been reported that they may be as follows:  

  • an upfront fee of £250 when lodging ET1;
  • further fee of £1,000 payable by the claimant when the hearing is listed;
  • higher fees if the claim is for over £30,000;
  • fee to be refunded if claimant wins, and forfeited if they lose; and
  • fees to be waived for those with no money.

It remains to be seen what the criteria will be for waiving these fees.