Reports surfaced in the Daily Telegraph this week that the Government is, post-reshuffle, considering making changes to employment law in the United Kingdom, ostensibly with the purpose of boosting lack-lustre economic growth. Peter Fallon has commented on the possibility of making it easier for employers to fire employees (and subsequently had his hand slapped by Vince Cable) and Darren Newman had an interesting exchange with Dominic Raab MP on the justification for changes to the law. This post will take a look at the recently implemented and proposed changes to employment law to get a view of how employment law will be changing in the coming months. This will entail an examination of:
- Recent changes to the law on unfair dismissal
- The law on dismissals as it stands at the moment
- Proposed changes to the law on dismissals
Recent changes to the law on unfair dismissal
On 6 April 2012 the qualifying period for unfair dismissal increased from one year’s continuous employment to two years’ continuous employment for employees.
The position prior to 6 April 2012: employees who commenced employment with their employer prior to 6 April 2012 would qualify to assert their rights related to unfair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996 after one year’s continuous employment (or 51 weeks if they were dismissed with the relevant statutory minimum or contractual notice).
The position after 6 April 2012: employees who commence employment on or after 6 April 2012 would qualify to assert their rights related to unfair dismissal after two year’s continuous employment with their employer. If, for example, an employee commenced employment on 6 April 2012 then they would only be entitled to claim unfair dismissal on or after 6 April 2014 (subject to the relevant period of notice).
The law on dismissals as it stands at the moment
Under s.94(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 employers are prohibited from unfairly dismissing qualifying employees. What this means is that when making a decision to dismiss employers must:
- Identify a potentially fair reason for the employee’s dismissal
- Make a decision to dismiss that is substantively and procedurally fair in the circumstances
There are six potentially fair reasons for dismissal:
- Some other substantial reason
To make a decision to dismiss that is substantively fair the employer must make a decision that is within the range of reasonable responses in the circumstances. In order for the dismissal to be procedurally fair the employer must undertake a thorough and fair investigation and not act in a partial manner towards the employee (for example, by unjustifiably treating them differently from other employees in similar circumstances).
If the employer fails to do this then the employee may be able to succeed in making an unfair dismissal claim against the employer.
Proposed changes to the law on dismissals
As above, the Government is currently considering a drive to deregulate employment law. Although Beecroft’s proposals for no-fault dismissals were themselves summarily dismissed the prospect of reform to employment laws was again addressed by Mr Fallon this week. More details on this will apparently be released by Vince Cable on Friday.