Chancellor George Osborne has announced two important changes which are intended to reduce the number of employment tribunal claims and boost the economy.

Firstly, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be increased from one year to two years with effect from 1 April 2012. 
The qualification period for unfair dismissal has varied between 6 months and two years, being reduced from two years to one year in 1999.  Altering it again could amount to indirect sex or age discrimination.  Implementing that proposal will amount to indirect sex discrimination if the proportions of men in the workforce, able and unable to satisfy the condition of two years’ employment is shown to be substantially different to the same proportions as regards women and it will therefore be unlawful under EC law unless justified as a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.

Secondly, fees will be introduced for tribunal claims.  From the (sketchy) information currently available, it appears the following fee structure will apply:

• Upfront fee of £250 when lodging ET1
• A further fee of £1,000 payable by Claimant when the hearing is listed
• Higher fees if the claim is for over £30,000
• Fee to be refunded if Claimant wins, and forfeited if they lose
• Fees to be waived for those with no money

As always, the devil is in the detail.  If the test for a fee-waiver is simply being on income support, then most ex-employees will automatically qualify for the waiver but those still in a job will not. In addition it should be noted that the issue fee of £250 and the hearing fee of £1,000 is substantially greater than the small claims issue fee.

If advice is needed on employment law related matters please contact Ian Tottman of the Pickworths Employment Team  on 01442 508623