From 6 April 2012, an employee will be required to have two years' continuous employment (the qualifying period) before being eligible to bring a claim for unfair dismissal before the UK Employment Tribunals.
The announcement was made by the UK government last month in an attempt to reduce the number of cases being brought before the tribunals and to help boost the UK's economic growth by removing just some of the risks incurred by employers in recruiting new employees.
Whether this increase will have a positive impact remains to be seen - those against it feel the increase will only lead to more discrimination cases being brought before the tribunals, in which no period of continuous employment is required. It has also been suggested that in today's difficult economic climate, employers could now be tempted to select for redundancy those employees with less than two years' continuous employment; this will prevent him/her from being eligible to bring a claim if the reasons surrounding that redundancy are spurious and the employee believes the dismissal to be unfair.
In addition, from 13 April 2013, an employee who wishes to pursue a grievance through the UK Employment Tribunals (irrespective of the grounds) will be required to file an issue fee of £250 simply for lodging the claim. A further £1,000 will then have to be paid by the employee should the claim proceed to a tribunal hearing. Again, these measures are being implemented to reduce the number of tribunals being brought and to encourage settlement of those claims on the verge of a hearing.
While employers have welcomed these new changes, employees and trade unions have expressed their concern, arguing it is an erosion of an employee's rights. Those employees who believe they have a genuine grievance against an employer may be prevented from pursuing a claim either because he/she does not have the requisite two years' continuous employment, or simply because they do not have the funds to issue a claim in the first place.
Although these measures seem controversial and have understandably seen strong opposition, according to its recent impact assessment consultation, the UK government seems committed to helping UK employers "feel more confident about hiring people", and creating more time for the employer/ employee relationship "to get established and work well".
But what impact, if any, will this have on Guernsey employers?
At this stage it appears there will be little impact, unless of course you are an Island employer with employees working on the mainland. Your UK employees will be bound by the new measures should they wish to pursue a grievance through the UK tribunals. It is also anticipated that Guernsey's Commerce and Employment will follow the impact of these measures very closely - with claims to Guernsey's Tribunal forever on the increase, and fewer claims settling by way of conciliation, if these measures are successful in reducing the numbers of claims brought in the UK, it is quite possible that Guernsey may indeed follow suit.
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