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Employment Law Roundup – February 2018

February 8th, 2018

As an employer you must be careful not to discriminate against someone because they have a disability. However, what about someone who has a medical condition which isn’t severe enough to amount to a disability under the law? Well surprisingly, a job applicant who was not disabled has won her case of disability discrimination.

Ms Coffey was a police officer in Wiltshire police force. She had some hearing loss, but this was not bad enough for her to be classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010. Her hearing loss was minimal: just below the recruitment standards for the police force. However, she was accepted to the Wiltshire force after passing a practical hearing test.

Ms Coffey later applied for a transfer to the Norfolk police force. They rejected her because of her hearing without doing any practical test at work, even though that was recommended by occupational health. The Norfolk force thought that her hearing might deteriorate and she would have to do restricted duties, so they rejected her application.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that this decision amounted to disability discrimination. It was based on a perception that Ms Coffey would be disabled in the future. The judge said that there would be a gap in equality law if an employer could dismiss someone before they became disabled to avoid the duty to make reasonable adjustments.  That does make sense – but it leaves employers in a more uncertain position than previously. Read the rest of this entry »

Employment Law Roundup – January 2018

January 5th, 2018

Worker status and rights are rarely out of the press at the moment. The recent EU holiday pay case of King v Sash Window Workshop adds another dimension and could have massive implications if you hire individuals on a self-employed basis as consultants or contractors.

If the contractor later brings and wins an employment tribunal case which says that they are a ‘worker’, rather than being genuinely self-employed, they will get all of the rights that go along with being a worker. While these rights are not as extensive as employment rights, they do include the right to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year.

Mr King was a self-employed salesman who brought a claim for worker status and was successful. He had never asked to take holidays or been paid for them. However, the Court of Justice of the European Union has held that holiday pay accrued during the whole period that he worked for Sash Window Workshop. He was entitled to be paid for 13 years of holiday back-pay.

There are some questions which still need to be answered by the Court of Appeal, but this case may open up some businesses to the risk of large holiday pay claims from people they thought were self-employed – and going back much further than the two years we previously thought. This case also increases the stakes in the gig economy worker cases going through the courts at the moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Employment Law Roundup – November 2017

November 2nd, 2017

With sexual harassment so much in the news, this is a good opportunity for employers to make sure that they are taking adequate steps to protect themselves from claims. The key point to understand is that employers will be liable for any harassment of one employee by another if it is done ‘in the course of employment’. This is a wide enough test to cover not only inappropriate behaviour in the workplace but also things said and done within the context of work – including business trips, conferences and work-related social functions. It is a cliché to warn employers of the potential dangers of the office Christmas party, but this year such warnings will carry some additional weight.

The best way an employer can protect itself against claims for harassment is to try their best to ensure that employees do not harass their colleagues. This is not just because there will then be no harassment on which a claim can be based, but also because an employer has a defence to a claim if it can demonstrate that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment from occurring. To meet this test the employer will have to show that it treats harassment as serious misconduct and ensures  – through induction and training – that all staff are aware of the standards of behaviour required. It is important that the matter is not simply dealt with in a written policy that sits somewhere near the back of the employee handbook, but that the employer actively promotes a workplace culture that does not tolerate harassment and encourages employees to speak up at an early stage if the behaviour of a colleague makes them feel uncomfortable. Employers who meet this standard will not only enjoy a measure of legal protection – they will also be providing happier and more productive places to work. Read the rest of this entry »

Employment Law Roundup – October 2017

October 9th, 2017

The unmistakable hints of Christmas that are appearing in shops are signaling that 2017 is nearing its close.

With next year just around the corner, employers are being urged to make preparations for one major shake-up that will take effect in May 2018. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looks set to change the way organisations handle personal data – whether by processing, storing, or disposing of that data. It’s an overhaul of our existing laws, and something that businesses of all sizes should be getting to grips with now.

The GDPR will introduce some enhanced versions of individuals’ rights already in play under the Data Protection Act, and there will be some new provisions too. And the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has advised that now is a good time to check company procedures to make sure, among other things, that your systems would help you locate and delete relevant personal data if asked to do so.

Getting a good understanding of what the GDPR will mean for your business and for your employees is the essential first step, and one that should be taken without delay. Reviewing and updating your systems, policies, contracts, notices, and consents, will ensure that you are ready for the changes when they take effect.  Read the rest of this entry »

Employment Law Roundup – September 2017

September 4th, 2017

July and August may not have delivered the perfect summer. But, by way of silver lining, we have had some significant employment law developments.

One of these is the publication of the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, addressing many of the issues that have been bubbling away in workplaces since new models of working emerged and established themselves. The report talks about an overriding ambition: ‘All work in the UK economy should be fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfillment.’

Among its recommendations is the re-labelling of some workers as ‘dependent contractors’, with a clearer distinction between that category and the self-employed. The report also talks about gig economy workers and the National Minimum Wage, holiday pay for atypical workers, statutory sick pay, and tax.

We shall have to wait and see what comes of the proposals and whether any of our laws and practices will change as a consequence. Read the rest of this entry »