There have been a lot of changes to the law relating to employment tribunals recently and it can be easy for employers to lose track.

It is a common misconception amongst employers that they can dismiss an employee who does not have the qualifying two years of service required to bring an ordinary unfair dismissal claim with little or no come back.

However, although it is true that, in many situations, there are a number of instances where this is not true.

Employees must have generally worked for the employer for a minimum period before they qualify for the right to claim unfair dismissal at a tribunal.   This is up to two years depending on when the employment started.

However, employers need to be aware that just because someone does not have one or two year’s service they are not automatically barred from bringing a claim.  Dismissals which take place for a discriminatory reason can be brought to tribunal irrespective of length of service.

If the dismissal is for one of the reasons below there is no qualifying period.  These are known as automatically unfair reasons and they include:


·        Health and Safety dismissal

·        Pregnancy related dismissal (only if the employer was aware the employee was pregnant)

·        Dismissal related to asserting a statutory right

·        Dismissal relating to Trade union membership or non-membership

·        Dismissal in connection with the national minimum wage

·        Dismissal connected with refusing to exceed the 48-hour working week

·        Dismissal for whistle blowing

What many employers also forget is that there are a number of statutory rights that begin immediately and it’s important not to fall foul of the law in these instances.

If the dismissal is related to discrimination on grounds of Age, Disability, Gender Re-assignment, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Pregnancy and Maternity, Race, Religion or Belief, Sex or Sexual Orientation, there is no qualifying period of employment and no limit on the amount of damages the Tribunal can award for unfair dismissal.

A tribunal can be a costly exercise, win or lose.  Take specialist advice and review your HR literature to make sure you are doing all you can to avoid the ordeal of a tribunal hearing, and any subsequent cost to the business.

John Howe, John Howe & Co, Pudsey

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