Unfair Dismissal Qualifying Period

The unfair dismissal qualifying period refers to the two year period during which employers can dismiss a worker without having to follow normal procedure or even having a fair reason for dismissal.

The qualifying period was increased from one to two years in 2012 to streamline the employment tribunal process.

So, an employee who has worked less than two years for the same employer will not have the right to make claims for unfair dismissal provided that the reason for dismissal does not fall within the automatic unfair dismissal categories outlined by the Employment Act 1996.

The Employment Act 1996

The act protects workers and states that all employees have certain rights regardless of the length of their service. These rights include:

  • A minimum notice period as defined in the employment contract.
  • The right to full payment up to the termination date.
  • Payment for any untaken holidays.

Employers are advised to thoroughly review the employment contract before dismissing any employee to make sure they are not breaching any contractual rules that might expose them to claims at the employment tribunal.

Automatic Unfair Dismissal

Some dismissal cases are considered automatically unfair even if the employee hasn’t served the full 2-year qualifying period.

Consequently, if an employee is dismissed for any of these reasons, they can claim against the employer. Cases that are considered automatically unfair dismissal include:

  • An employee dismissed for asking for time off for jury service.
  • A pregnant employee asking for maternal leave.
  • An employee asking for their rights such as minimum wage.

The Employment Act 1996 has the full list of all reasons that are automatically considered unfair dismissal by the employment tribunal.

Before dismissing a worker, employers should carefully consider the reasons for dismissal and set them down to protect themselves and their business against unfair dismissal claims by former employees.


While the unfair dismissal qualifying period gives employers ample time to test the employee’s suitability for the job, it doesn’t protect employers against unfair dismissal claims.

Employers should base their dismissal on fair reasons and avoid automatic unfair dismissal rules laid out in the Employment Act 1996.