The qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal effectively gives employers time to determine whether an employee is suitable for their job role.

The current qualifying period is two years, which means that an employer is able to dismiss an employee during the first two years of their service for general unsuitability.

Employers are not required to follow a formal warning procedure in order to dismiss an employee with less than two years’ service. However, these employees do remain protected against automatically unfair reasons for dismissal, such as discrimination.

Protection against unfair dismissal

When an employee reaches two years’ service, they are granted additional protection against unfair dismissal.

A formal procedure must then be followed that specifies a particular reason for dismissal – such as misconduct or redundancy – and that gives the employee appropriate warnings for initial offences. For instance, dismissing an employee with more than two years’ service for a first minor offence is likely to be judged unfair by an employment tribunal.

The legal limits of probation periods

Employers and staff should both be aware that probation periods are company policy and are not protected by law in any way.

This means that even though an employee may have passed their initial probation period – in most cases three months – they may still be dismissed for their first conduct offence, or for any other reason if they have served less than two years with the company.

The law behind unfair dismissal qualifying period

The Employment Rights Act 1996 details the legislation on unfair dismissal provisions.

The Unfair Dismissal and Statement of Reasons for Dismissal (Variation of Qualifying Period) Order 2012 increased the qualifying period from one year to two years.

Summary

  • The qualifying period for unfair dismissal effectively gives employers two years to determine whether an employee is suitable for their role.
  • Employers can dismiss an employee with less than two years’ service for general unsuitability and do not have to follow a formal warning procedure in order to do so.
  • Once an employee reaches two years’ service, they are granted additional protection against unfair dismissal. The employer then has to specify a valid reason for the dismissal and give appropriate warnings for initial offences.