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Dismissing when an employee has less than a year’s service

31 March 2011

Once an employee has a year’s service, he has the right to claim unfair dismissal. As part of the employment tribunal reforms, the government is considering doubling this requirement to two years. Whether or not this change materialises, it will not necessarily radically alter the position, says a Willans solicitor.

The thinking behind the proposal is that employers will feel more confident about hiring people and it will create more time for the relationship to get established and work well. While the doubling of the qualifying service period reduces the chance of a claim being made, it certainly does not eliminate the risk entirely. There are many exceptions to the need for any qualifying service for unfair dismissal claims.

Discrimination and breach of contract claims too, can be brought without the need for a minimum length of service. Take for example the not uncommon situation where after a few months in the job, an employee turns out to be less suitable than hoped and the employer decides to terminate his employment.

In the meantime, the employee has been chasing the employment contract his boss has never got round to providing. The employee may argue that he was sacked because he asked for the terms (ie asserted his statutory right). There is no minimum service requirement for such a claim.

Whenever and however employment is terminated, caution is always advised. If in doubt, employers should go through the same process as they would for an employee who has over a year’s service.

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