Dismissal due to political opinion automatically unfair from June 2013

06 October 2013
Dismissal due to political opinion automatically unfair from June 2013

The two year qualifying period for unfair dismissal no longer applies where the dismissal is because of an individual's political opinions or affiliations.

From 25 June 2013, a dismissal will be automatically unfair from day 1 of an individual's employment where the dismissal is based on an employee's political persuasion.

The changes, contained in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which amend the Employment Rights Act 1996, follow the European case of Redfearn v UK.

Redfearn, an excellent employee, was summarily dismissed in 2004 by Serco, following complaints from unions and employees when he was elected as a BNP councillor. Redfearn did not meet the qualifying period for unfair dismissal due to his length of service. The courts decided it was a breach of his human rights that he could not claim unfair dismissal when he was sacked for his political affiliations.

Employers will be able to defend a claim for unfair dismissal by showing that the dismissal was based on one of the fair grounds for dismissal (eg. conduct, some other substantial reason) and a fair procedure was followed.

Note that existing case law means that political opinion or affiliation is still not protected under the Equality Act 2010 as a "religion or belief". Therefore workers still may not claim discrimination on the grounds of political opinion or affiliation under the Equality Act 2010.

Actions:

  • Employers may need to update their policies and guidance (eg. disciplinary) where the automatically unfair grounds of dismissal are described, and take the change into account when considering dismissals in this area.


For further information see the discipline & capability section of HRBird.

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