Firms warned about change in law

BUSINESSES are being reminded to guard against staff claiming discrimination despite a change in employment laws this year.

Although the qualifying period of employment for unfair dismissal is set to be extended from one to two years, Atteys Solicitors says employers still need to guard against staff claiming discrimination at any point.

The firm’s Doncaster-based employment law specialist Natalie Aitken explained: “From April 2012, employees will have to have been employed for two years rather than one before they can bring a claim of unfair dismissal. However this does not include claims of discrimination, which can be made at any point by any employee.

“There is a danger that some employers may not be aware of this exemption and may find themselves the surprise recipients of a discrimination claim from an employee with less than two years service who they believe they have dismissed fairly.

“Discrimination law includes sex, race, age, disability, religious beliefs or sexual orientation and applies to job applicants, employees and even past employees. There is no qualifying employment period for bringing a claim of discrimination so, regardless of the changes in April, employers should continue to ensure they follow the right procedures before dismissing anyone,” she added.

The changes being made by the Government are designed to remove some of the barriers to business growth and make employment tribunals a last resort rather than a one-stop shop to resolving workplace disputes. All employment claims will be submitted via the arbitration service ACAS rather than directly to the employment tribunal to encourage parties to negotiate.