Political Opinions (Dismissal)

Business, Innovation and Skills written statement – made on 14th February 2013.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Viscount Younger of Leckie, has today made the following statement:

The Government take the United Kingdom’s responsibilities to comply with human rights protections seriously. With that in mind, we are taking steps to amend our legislation following a recent European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) ruling.

In November 2012, the ECtHR held that the United Kingdom was in breach of article 11 of the European convention on human rights by preventing individuals who do not have a qualifying period of service from making claims for unfair dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation. The ECtHR considered that the UK Government should amend their legislation to protect employees who suffer such dismissals.

In the case, Redfearn v UK, a bus driver was dismissed after he became a BNP councillor. Mr. Redfearn was unable to bring a claim for unfair dismissal because he did not have the requisite qualifying service.

In principle, the Court agreed that a qualifying service period is reasonable and appropriate. The ruling is a narrow judgment, limited to instances where the alleged reason for dismissal is political affiliation or opinion.

Having considered the judgment, the Government have decided not to appeal this decision. To bring our legislation into line with the ruling, we have tabled an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before the House of Lords.

This amendment exempts claimants who allege that their dismissal was on the grounds of political opinion or affiliation from the two-year qualifying period.

Following the necessary Parliamentary stages, this additional protection would come into effect two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent and would apply to dismissals after that date.