There was much (well some) fanfare following Redfearn v UK  ECHR 1878 when the qualifying period for unfair dismissal was removed where the sole or principal reason for dismissal was due to a person’s political affiliation. It didn’t become “automatically unfair” so could still be an “ordinary” unfair dismissal on normal principles, although presumably it would have to be argued as some other substantial reason; the sole or principal reason not being one of the usual list of conduct, capability etc.
Whilst not entirely overlooked, a similar provision is likely to be quietly introduced in respect of members of the Reserve Forces – something that was envisaged by craighrb on my last blog on the subject.
Section 48 of the Defence Reform Act 2014 introduces an identical right in respect of dismissals where the sole or principal reason for the dismissal of an employee:
is, or is connected with, the employee’s membership of a reserve force…
The provision is not yet in force. The only commencement order currently made does not apply to the new right. There has been discussion about how much further the employment rights of reservists could be extended. In the second reading debate, the then Shadow Secretary of State for Defence raised the prospect of what would appear a right not to be subjected to detriments on the same grounds. There was a proposal in committee to amend section 39 of the Equality Act 2010 so that discrimination in employment on the basis of membership of the reserve forces would become unlawful. That proposal. as well as a proposal to give the right to time off for training, were both defeated; the latter both in the Commons and in the Lords.
What could have been a wide ranging change has remained quite narrow. It’s also of questionable value bearing in mind the right to reinstatement contained in the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985. In practice, any member of the reserves is going to be much better off getting what is (in most cases) going to be a guaranteed return to a job. Bearing in mind that on average fewer than 10 employees are reinstated each year, and bearing in mind that there are no fees to start a Reinstatement Committee case, the new change to the qualifying period seems to be very much the poorer relation.