Warning over changes to unfair dismissal laws

Upcoming changes to employment law and regulations could result in an additional 2.7 million workers with an increased risk of losing their jobs, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has warned.

As of 6 April 2012, the qualifying period for protection from unfair dismissal will increase from one to two years, meaning that employees will have to be working for a company for a minimum of two years before being eligible to file for an unfair dismissal claim.

According to the union organisation, the changes will increase job insecurity, discriminate against minority and younger workers, and lead to a 'hire and fire' culture in Britain.

It has argued that the 2.7 million individuals in part-time and temporary jobs will risk losing out on unfair dismissal protections entirely, with 1.4 million of these part-time female employees.

In a consultation for the legislation changes, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), said the move would boost business growth and give employers greater confidence to hire staff.

Brendan Barber, the TUC's general secretary, said: 'Cutting back on protection against unfair dismissal will do nothing to boost the economy. If people are constantly in fear of losing their jobs it will lead to even less consumer spending, and losing your job is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone, especially when unemployment is so high.

'Businesses have told the government that above all they need the economy to be growing and the banks to get lending again. The government appears to be reacting to pressure from backbench Conservative MPs rather than actual business concerns.'

In a statement for the BBC, the BIS said the change would not affect any rules in place to halt discrimination, saying: "Fear of employment tribunals has been a real obstacle for firms to take on staff."

"We believe that two years is an appropriate period of time and crucially this does not affect the day-one rights for all employees, such as discrimination rules."

Various new legislation changes regarding employment rights and the Tribunal system are coming into effect from 6 April 2012, including allowing judges to sit alone in unfair dismissal cases and witness statements being 'taken as read'.