Man employed less than a year ‘unfairly dismissed’

The rule that staff must be employed for at least one year before they can
make unfair dismissal claims has been called into question.

Judith Fiddler of Manchester law firm Rowe and Cohen said a recent decision by
a Stratford employment tribunal fundamentally changes the interpretation of
law. The case involved an employee sacked 10 months after starting a job whose
manager thought it unnecessary to follow statutory procedure or arrange a
disciplinary hearing because of the 12-month rule.

The tribunal decided the manager was legally obliged to follow proper
procedure – and had he done so the employee would have been in the job for more
than a year. In these circumstances the employee now has the right to claim for
"loss of chance" to claim unfair dismissal.

The sacked employee succeeded in claiming an award for loss of earnings and
even loss of his statutory rights. However, the tribunal reduced his award by
25 per cent because it thought it was likely he would have been dismissed
anyway.

Fiddler warned employers to brace themselves for a deluge of additional
claims that could clog up the already straining tribunal system.

She said, "The Government is actively seeking ways to discourage
spurious claims by increasing awards against frivolous and vexatious
applicants.

"But its plans have completely backfired. Now the floodgates are open
even further and employers should redraft their contracts without delay."

John
Adsett, secretary of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Managers,
said the ruling, assuming it is not overturned on appeal, would mean
unscru-pulous employers would have to be careful if they sacked workers
unfairly within 12 months. He said, "Whatever the length of service things
should be done properly. The fact that someone has been in a job less than 12
months should not affect the way an employer handles that employee at
all."

By Richard Staines

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