by Mary-Jane Thomas, partner
The Labour government has announced its first big change to employment law today, which is expected to have its first reading in early February; businesses which have more than 19 employees will no longer be able to hire and fire employees under the 90-day trial period scheme.
The 90-day trial period (if used correctly) meant that employers could dismiss an employee within the first 90 days of their employment without cause or explanation, and the employee was unable to raise a personal grievance against the employer for an unjustified dismissal.
Labour has announced that small businesses, with 19 employees or less, will still be able to use the 90-day trial periods for their new employees and be protected against a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal if they fire someone on their 90-day trial.
Employers who have more than 19 staff, however, will be prohibited from using a 90-day trial period. Instead, they will be entitled to include “probationary periods”. While an employee can still be fired at the end of a probationary period, employers must have a fair reason, and the proper processes must be followed or the employer will risk a personal grievance being raised against them.
Whilst the new law has not yet come into effect, we recommend businesses who employ more than 19 employees start looking now at how this will affect them, and understand what the probationary periods require of them as the employer.