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Subject to certain exceptions employees have to acquire a specific amount of service with their employer before they are protected from being unfairly dismissed. This protection is only available to employees and not to workers or self-employed contractors.
The Government decided that the one year qualifying period was too short and was potentially acting as a negative factor in employers decisions on whether to recruit or not. Therefore The Employment Rights Act 1996 which sets out the requirements for such protection was amended with effect from 6 April 2012. The length of service required before a claim for unfair dismissal can be lodged is now two years continuous service for those who started their employment after that date.
We are in a transitional period however while the changes are implemented fully. The situation at present is as follows -
The requirement for this length of service also applies to anyone seeking to claim they have been constructively unfairly dismissed.
You should note however that in certain circumstances dismissals will be considered to be automatically unfair and employees are not be required to have the same level of qualifying service before making a claim. These include dismissals for reasons such as pregnancy or maternity leave, trades union membership, whistleblowing, reporting health and safety risks or assertion of statutory rights. In addition claims for unlawful discrimination do not require any service before they can be lodged.
Pam Loch, Managing Partner of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers and Managing Director of HR Advise Me Limited.
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