Unfair dismissal changes will lead to more discrimination claims, says the TUC

Extending the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one to two years will lead to a rise in discrimination claims and will cause confusion for employers and staff, according to the TUC.

In its submission to the Government’s consultation on workplace dispute reforms the TUC argued that young people, ethnic minority employees and female, part-time workers would be among those hit hardest by plans to remove unfair dismissal rights for staff with less than two years’ service.

Daniel Nagel, employment lawyer at Pinsent Masons, explains how the proposed changes could result in more discrimination claims.

According to the TUC, three in five (59.2%) workers aged under 24, one-third (32.5%) of part-time employees and 30% of ethnic minority employees have worked for their employer for less than two years and so would be unable to claim unfair dismissal if the extension goes ahead. It added that 500,000 female part-time workers would also lose out.

Additionally, the TUC argued that introducing tribunal fees, a proposal set out to reduce the number of spurious claims, would have a disproportionate effect on low-paid workers.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, commented: “While everyone wants to see a quicker and more efficient tribunal system, taking away people’s rights and pricing vulnerable workers out of the system is the worst possible way to achieve this.

“The proposals to restrict protection against unfair dismissal will not only hit young people and female part-time employees the hardest, but will also open the door to more discrimination claims, creating confusion for staff and employers alike.”

In its submission, the TUC called for the Government to focus on encouraging disputes to be resolved before they get to court, which echoes a similar call by the CBI last week.

The CBI also called for the introduction of league tables for employment tribunals and individual judges to encourage best practice and greater efficiency in the system.

More information on the consultation on workplace disputes, which closes on 20 April 2011, is available here.

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