Currently one year, this could be raised to two years or possibly even three. Reduction of the qualifying period from two years to one was one of New Labour's early workplace reforms in 1999. A concrete proposal to reverse that would be politically symbolic, but would it necessarily be good news for business? There is no qualifying period for claims of unlawful discrimination (sex, race, age etc) and certain categories of 'automatically' unfair dismissal, such as whistleblowing and trade union and safety-related sackings. Employees with less than two years' service might resort to such avenues, which tend to be more complex and costly to defend than a standard unfair dismissal claim. A significantly longer qualifying period might also itself spawn legal challenges, on the basis that it discriminates against women - prompting unwelcome uncertainty for employers. Perhaps a case of more is less?
Michael Burd and James Davies are solicitors at Lewis Silkin LLP. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.