Easy come, easy go? For the first two years of employment, maybe.

From this April the Government is proposing that a new employee will have to wait for two years until they have legal protection against dismissal. In other words, they get a new job, hand in their notice where they are, go to the new employer and for the next two years the new employer can decide whether or not to dismiss them. Unless the reason for dismissal can be shown to be unlawful discrimination, there is usually little that the employee can do. The dismissal can be really, really unfair, and the Employment Tribunal will be unable to even consider a Claim for unfair dismissal. Until the two year threshold, the employer will not be obliged to give any reason for the dismissal.

This will make the risk to an employee who changes job last for two years. At the moment that risk is only for the first year. When the right to claim unfair dismissal was created in 1971 by Edward Heath it was two years, but it was later reduced to one year so as to give employees more protection. Now the change back to two years is part of the part of the government’s attempt to improve business confidence and boost economic growth

It can be argued that it should not take more than a year for an employer to know whether the employee is an asset to the business. It can also be argued that making the legal ‘probation’ effectively two years long will deter good people from moving jobs as they lose their job security for such a long time. The prolonged insecurity may lead to more senior people requiring a long notice period, so at least they have a cushion of income for that notice period if they are dismissed within the first two years of employment. Otherwise, for most, it will be easy come easy go for the first two years of employment, a fluidity that the Government thinks will encourage businesses to take on extra people. Will it lead to more new jobs, or just to less security for jobs that would have been there anyway? Time will tell.

The changes will not affect people whose employment has already started before the 6 April 2012, so if you are an employee you may wish to jump soon and if you are an employer you may wish to delay a job start until after that deadline.

The above has to be general advice only, so please take specific advice before action.
Frances Barker is Employment Partner at Blocks Solicitors, advising employers and employees. Contact her on 01473 343911 or frb@blockslegal.co.uk
(Written: February 2012)