by Katie L. Clark

What is changing?

From April 6, 2012, the length of continuous service needed by an employee in the UK to qualify:

  • To bring a standard unfair dismissal claim; and
  • To request a written statement setting out the reasons for his/her dismissal will increase from one year to two years. 

Will this affect existing employees?

The new two year qualifying period will apply to an employee who commences work on or after April 6, 2012.

Employees who are already in employment on April 5, 2012, will not be affected by this change.  They will still be able to bring a claim of standard unfair dismissal if they have at least one year’s continuous service.

Employees who transfer to a new employer under TUPE after April 6, 2012, but who were employed by the transferor prior to April 6, 2012, will also be covered by the one year service threshold for standard unfair dismissal.

What about employees who are currently being recruited?

An employee’s period of continuous employment “begins with the day on which the employee starts work.”  This means that the increased qualifying period will only apply to employees who start work on or after April 6, 2012.

The date on which an employee commences a recruitment process, or is offered a job, is not relevant when it comes to calculating continuous employment.

What does this mean for employers?

If commercially possible, employers in the UK may wish to push new joiner start dates back to April 6, 2012 or beyond. 

Ensure that your internal recruitment team, who may be making offers to candidates to start with you in early April 2012, know about the change.

Going forward, the date on which an employee started work will be as important as the date on which their employment ended for the purposes of determining if they are eligible to bring a standard unfair dismissal claim. 

To make the position as certain as possible, ideally both the start date in the employment contract, and the date on which an employee commences work, should fall on or after April 6, 2012.