The employment rights of millions of workers will be hit under government plans to extend the qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal, the TUC has warned.

The union organisation said extending the time from one to two years will restrict access to justice and price low-paid workers out of the system.

The TUC said it also opposed plans to introduce fees for workers taking a claim to a tribunal, arguing it would have a disproportionate effect on low-paid employees.

Young people, ethnic minorities and part-time women workers would be most affected by the plans to remove unfair dismissal rights from staff with less than two years’ service, according to the TUC.

In its submission to the government, the TUC said cases could be speeded up by giving more resources to the tribunal system, improving the enforcement of multiple pay claims and extending a pre-claim conciliation service offered by Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “While everyone wants to see a quicker and more efficient tribunal system, taking away people’s rights and pricing vulnerable workers out of the system is the worst possible way to achieve this.

“The proposals to restrict protection against unfair dismissal will not only hit young people and female part-time employees the hardest, but will also open the door to more discrimination claims, creating confusion for staff and employers alike.

“There is no credible evidence to show that restricting access to justice actually helps our economy and it’s disappointing that ministers seem so keen to boost bad employment practices.

“If the government is serious about improving the tribunal system it should concentrate much more on encouraging disputes to be resolved before they get to court.”