New day 1 right not to be unfairly dismissed on grounds of political opinion

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The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (“BIS”) has announced that it has tabled an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to allow employees to bring a claim that they have been unfairly dismissed on grounds of their political opinion or affiliation from the first day of their employment….

Background

This announcement follows the recent European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) ruling in Redfearn v UK. Mr Redfearn was a bus driver who was dismissed after he became a BNP Councillor. He took his case to the EHRC where he complained that the UK was in breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Right (Freedom of Assembly and Association) because he did not have enough service to bring a claim that he was dismissed on the grounds of his political opinion.

As readers will be aware, an employee can only bring a claim for “ordinary” unfair dismissal if they have the requisite period of continuous employment at their termination date. Those employed before 6 April 2012 must have at least one year’s service to bring such claim. For those whose employment commenced on or after 6 April the continuous service required is two years.

The ECHR considered that the UK Government should amend its legislation to protect employees who suffer such dismissals. BIS have therefore tabled an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords, to allow such claims from day 1 of employment. The amendment, which is expected to come into effect two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent (expected to be Spring 2013), will apply to all such dismissals after that date.

Is it discrimination as well?

Redfearn has prompted much legal debate about whether the right not be to be discriminated against on grounds of any “religious or philosophical belief” could have assisted Mr Redfearn. Unless or until there is case law to the contrary, it seems that the possibility remains that employees who allege that they have been dismissed because of their political opinion or affiliation could also bring a claim for discrimination on grounds of religion or philosophical belief.

Find out more…

Our Member Briefings: Employment Law Updates, running in February and March nationally will cover this and other recent developments in case law and legislation. Click here for more information.

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