Boris Johnson indicates future consultation on unfair dismissal timeframes

The Prime Minister has outlined plans to consult on reducing the unfair dismissal qualifying period from two years to one year if his Brexit deal successfully passes through Parliament.

n a bid to win more votes for his deal, that Boris Johnson has promised additional protections to worker rights post-Brexit, something that has been the cause of contention throughout the Brexit process. Although Johnson has presented a deal to Parliament that would oversee the UK’s exit from the EU, many politicians have voiced concern that this could result in a deregulation of current worker rights. Speaking on the deal last week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outlined that Johnson’s deal risked ‘triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections’.  

To counteract this, BuzzFeed UK reports that a new package from Downing Street has been issued. It states that, following the UK’s exit from the EU, a draft Employment Reform Bill will be produced to ensure employment practices ‘keep pace with modern ways of working and give workers access to the rights and protections they deserve’. In addition, the government will consult on improving unfair dismissal protections, which would include employees only needing to have one year’s continuous service to bring a claim. ‘Anomalies’ in employee terms and conditions during Tupe transfers would also be ‘addressed’ in this consultation, to ‘ensure they are working in the interest of workers’.

Currently, employees need to have been working for the same organisation for two years in order to bring a claim of unfair dismissal, something that can result in substantial compensation pay-outs if successful. The purpose of the law is to provide a certain level of protection for organisations. It is easier to considering dismissing an employee on short-service as they have less opportunity to bring a claim to the tribunal.

It is interesting that Johnson is promising to reassess this current qualifying period, given that the Coalition government previously increased it from one year to two in 2012. Furthermore, whilst the government has now promised to consult on this matter, this would be very dependent upon the outcome of Brexit and whether the Conservatives remain in power going forward. A consultation does not necessarily mean that there will be any development to the law.

In the meantime, in what is sure to be a crucial week for Brexit, organisations would be advised to remain up to date on all developments as they come. Whilst we still cannot be entirely sure how much Brexit will impact on existing employee rights and protections, it will have an immediate impact on any organisation who employs, or is planning to employ, individuals from Europe.

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