Graduate unfair dismissal: Young workers are “disposable” now bosses can sack without reason, say job experts

Graduate unfair dismissal - happening on a large scale?HAS CHANGE TO LAW GIVEN EMPLOYERS TOO MUCH POWER?

Recent graduates are among the first casualties of a change in law that has made it too easy for bosses to sack their workers without good reason, effectively making them “disposable” and “vulnerable to the whims of bad bosses” Graduate Fog has heard.

Dr Anne Wilson, an independent graduate careers advisor who has written several blog posts for Graduate Fog, told us she recently met a trio of graduates who had been dismissed from their jobs in a publishing company with no clear reason given. Investigating ways to appeal, the graduates discovered that recent changes to the law mean that effectively there is nothing they can do, as they had been employed for less than two years so could not take their case to tribunal. Wilson told us:

“The graduates’ account of working for this publishing company was already shocking enough – in my mind, their employer had bullied them during the time they worked there. But I was even more shocked when I looked into what they could do about it. The answer seemed to be nothing.

“Checking into employment law revealed to me that graduates like them have little or no rights. Their boss could do pretty much as she liked until the two years were up (unless she dismissed them for getting pregnant or something which contravened the Equality Act.)

“It seems grossly unfair that these graduates now have a dismissal on their record and no references from this employer, through no fault of their own – and there is nothing they can do about it. I wonder how many young workers have found themselves to be similarly disposable. When you’re at the start of your career, it’s especially important to have good references from a previous employer so to my mind young people are particularly vulnerable to the whims of bad bosses.”

Graduate Fog double checked the law with barrister Simon Cheetham, who confirmed that anyone who had been in their job for less than two years now has very little protection if they are sacked from their position and want to challenge their dismissal. He said:

“You have to be employed for two years to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, unless the dismissal is discriminatory (e.g. maternity, race etc) or for something like whistle-blowing. It was one year up until 2012, when it was changed following complaints from employers that it was too difficult to dismiss of under-performing staff. There’s no right to receive a reference either – in fact, there’s never been a right to a reference. I agree that makes it particularly difficult for people at the start of their career.”

Graduate Fog is concerned about this legal problem – and we wonder how common it is for graduates to find themselves having been sacked for no reason, or from being bullied out of their job. Has that happened to you or anyone you know?

*KNOW A NEW GRADUATE WHO’s BEEN UNFAIRLY DISMISSED?
Tell us what happened (without naming names, obviously!). What impact did this have on their ability to find a new job? Is it right that you need to have worked somewhere for two years before you can challenge your boss’s decision to fire you? Are young people at the start of their careers particularly vulnerable when it comes to unfair sacking? Have your say below…

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