Whilst strikes were temporarily abandoned in England as a mark of respect for the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral, the unions have not been resting. Several unions have started judicial review proceedings against the government in response to new regulations regarding the use of supply agency workers. The tribunals have been reviewing COVID-related employment issues, how far a belief in one’s football team can be stretched and protecting a woman’s right to a private life versus the rights of the claimant to a fair trial and freedom of expression. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has been considering the matter of confiscating earnings received by a CEO who got the job by lying about his experience.
- Strikes: Unions commence judicial review of regulations permitting supply of agency workers during strikes
- COVID-19: Two and a half weeks is not long enough for long COVID to become a disability
- COVID-19: Requirement for employees to exhaust holiday and TOIL before receiving further paid leave for COVID-related absences was not discriminatory
- Equality Act: Supporting a football club is not a protected philosophical belief
- Human Rights: EAT makes anonymity order to protect non-party and non-witness who was subject of false lurid sexual allegations
- Fraud: A confiscation order should strip the profit from fraudulently obtained employment
Strikes: Unions commence judicial review of regulations permitting supply of agency workers during strikes
Separate but similar judicial review proceedings have been issued by unions in response to new regulations that allow employment businesses to supply agency workers to replace striking staff.
The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/852) came into force on 21 July 2022 and have already resulted in a report by the TUC to the International Labour Organization over alleged infringement of workers’ rights to strike.
Unison issued proceedings in the High Court on 13 September 2022, arguing that the government’s decision is unfair and is based on unreliable and outdated evidence from a 2015 consultation. It also argues that the government has failed to consider Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which protects the right to freedom of association, and international labour standards on the right to strike.
On 20 September 2022, the TUC began similar proceedings in collaboration with 11 other unions, arguing that the Secretary of State failed to consult unions, in contravention with the Employment Agencies Act 1973, and that the regulations violate Article 11 of the ECHR. The teachers’ union, NASUWT, has also announced its intention to issue proceedings. The claims are all likely to be heard together.
A response is required from the Business Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, within 21 days of proceedings being issued.
COVID-19: Two and a half weeks is not long enough for long COVID to become a disability
In Quinn v Sense Scotland ETS/4111971/2021, an employment tribunal has determined that an employee who caught COVID-19 two and a half weeks before her dismissal did not have long COVID and was not disabled under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) at the relevant time.
Mrs Quinn was employed as Head of People. She tested positive for COVID-19 on or around 11 July 2021. She subsequently experienced fatigue, shortness of breath, pain and discomfort, headaches, and brain fog. These symptoms affected her everyday life and disrupted her sleep. She struggled with shopping and driving and stopped socialising and exercising. On 26 July, she contacted her GP to arrange an appointment. On 27 July, she was dismissed from her employment. She consulted with her GP on 2, 8 and 22 August, during which time she was deemed unfit to work due to ongoing symptomatic COVID-19. On 12 September, she was deemed unfit to work due to post-COVID-19 syndrome and diagnosed with long COVID.
Mrs Quinn brought a direct disability discrimination claim, among other claims. As a preliminary issue, a tribunal had to determine whether she was disabled at the time of her dismissal. She relied on the impairment of long COVID including having COVID-19 for longer than normal. She submitted that COVID-19 and long COVID are part of the same condition, and that other 50-year-old women with no underlying health conditions recovered more quickly than her after two weeks. Consequently, it could have been predicted that she would experience long COVID.
An employment tribunal found that she was not disabled under the EqA 2010 for the following reasons:
- At the time of her dismissal, she did not have long COVID. She was not diagnosed with long COVID until some six weeks later.
- While the impairment of COVID-19 had a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, this effect had lasted only two and a half weeks at the relevant time and was not long term.
- The substantial majority of people who catch COVID-19 do not develop long COVID. Accordingly, it cannot be said that the risk of developing long COVID “could well happen“.
Mrs Quinn’s case could be distinguished from that of Mr Burke, who had been absent from work with COVID-19 for nine months at the time of his dismissal.
COVID-19: Requirement for employees to exhaust holiday and TOIL before receiving further paid leave for COVID-related absences was not discriminatory
In Cowie and others v Scottish Fire and Rescue Service  EAT 121 , the EAT (Eady P) has held that it was not discriminatory for the fire service to require employees to have used up accrued holiday and time off in lieu (TOIL) before being eligible to apply for additional paid “special leave” to cover COVID-19 related absences.
Two groups of employees brought discrimination claims in relation to this requirement. One group alleged indirect sex discrimination under section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) and the other alleged discrimination arising from disability under section 15 of the EqA 2010.
The tribunal dismissed the section 19 claims because there was no evidence of group disadvantage to women. It upheld the section 15 claims, agreeing that the requirement to exhaust holiday and TOIL was unfavourable treatment. However, it did not award any compensation since there was no evidence of any injury to feelings. The claimants and the employer appealed to the EAT.
The EAT allowed the employer’s appeal. In relation to the section 15 claims, the tribunal had identified the relevant treatment as being the requirement to use up holiday and TOIL. However, this requirement only arose when the claimants sought access to paid special leave. It was wrong to separate the conditions applicable to the benefit from the benefit itself. The relevant treatment was therefore the granting of paid special leave. This was clearly favourable treatment. The treatment could have been more favourable if the conditions were removed, but it did not become unfavourable simply because it could, hypothetically, have been more favourable.
The same error arose in relation to the section 19 claims. The PCP was defined as the requirement to exhaust TOIL or annual leave. However, the PCP only operated in the context of the paid special leave policy. Since the provision of paid special leave was clearly favourable, the PCP could only amount to a disadvantage if the conditions of entitlement were artificially separated from the benefit itself.
The EAT therefore found that neither the section 15 nor the section 19 claims could succeed. Nevertheless, it considered and rejected the claimants’ grounds of appeal, finding that the tribunal had been entitled to conclude that there was not sufficient evidence:
- To show group disadvantage in the section 19 claims.
- To justify an award of compensation for injury to feelings in the section 15 claims.
Equality Act: Supporting a football club is not a protected philosophical belief
At a preliminary hearing in McClung v Doosan Babcock Ltd and others  UKET/4110538, an employment tribunal has held that supporting Rangers Football Club (Rangers) does not amount to a protected philosophical belief within the meaning of section 10(2) of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010).
Mr McClung had supported Rangers for 42 years, was a member of the club and received yearly birthday cards from them. He never missed a match and spent most of his discretionary income on attendance at games, as well as watching them on television. He believed supporting Rangers was a way of life and as important to him as attending church is for religious people.
The tribunal defined Mr McClung’s belief as being a supporter of Rangers but concluded that it was not capable of being a protected philosophical belief. While it was not in dispute that the belief was genuinely held, the tribunal concluded that the remaining Grainger criteria were not satisfied for the following reasons:
- The tribunal had regard to the explanatory notes to the EqA 2010 which provide that adherence to a football team would not be a belief capable of protection. The definition of “support” (being “actively interested in and concerned for the success of” a particular sports team) contrasted with the definition of “belief” (being “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof”). Mr McClung’s support for Rangers was akin to support for a political party, which case law had made clear does not constitute a protected philosophical belief.
- Support for a football club is akin to a lifestyle choice. It did not represent a belief as to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and had no larger consequences for humanity as a whole. There was a wide range of Rangers fans with varying reasons behind their support, shown in different ways.
- There was nothing to suggest fans had to behave, or did behave, in a similar way. Support for the Union and loyalty to the Queen were not prerequisites of being a Rangers supporter as Mr McClung had submitted. The only common factor was that fans wanted their team to do well. It therefore lacked the required characteristics of cogency, cohesion and importance.
- Support for Rangers did not invoke the same respect in a democratic society as matters such as ethical veganism or the governance of a country, which have been the subject of academic research and commentary.
Human Rights: EAT makes anonymity order to protect non-party and non-witness who was subject of false lurid sexual allegations
In Piepenbrock v London School of Economics and Political Science  EAT 119, the EAT has held that the identity of a non-party and non-witness (Ms D) was entitled to the benefit of an anonymity order. False lurid allegations of a sexual nature had been made against her, and not granting the order would lead to a substantial risk of her right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) being infringed. Moreover, there was a substantial risk that the claimant, Dr Piepenbrock, who had made the allegations against Ms D, would abuse the court system in a manner contrary to the interests of justice, which would have a serious detrimental effect on Ms D.
HHJ Shanks held that these considerations substantially outweighed the principle of open justice, Dr Piepenbrock’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR and his right to freedom of expression under Article 10, as well as other parties’ rights under Article 10, including the press. Granting the order sought would not seriously impact these rights and principles, as it would remain open to anyone to describe the case in all its detail, save for the identity of Ms D. The fact that the central allegation against Ms D was lurid and found to be untrue substantially reduced the weight to be accorded to the Article 10 rights at play.
The EAT granted an indefinite order protecting Ms D’s identity from becoming public and maintaining Ms D’s anonymity in an earlier EAT judgment. The order also limited access to documents lodged with the EAT and prevented Dr Piepenbrock or anyone else from disclosing Ms D’s identity. This case serves to highlight the EAT’s power to act to protect individuals’ rights under the ECHR, even where there is no express rule of procedure in the EAT Rules to that effect.
Fraud: A confiscation order should strip the profit from fraudulently obtained employment
In R v Andrewes  UKSC 24, the appellant obtained a CEO position, falsely claiming he had qualifications and relevant experience. He was appointed in December 2004 and remained in post until March 2015. He would not have been appointed had the true position been known. During his time as CEO, he was regularly appraised as either strong or outstanding.
In January 2017, he pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and two counts of fraud. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and the Crown sought a confiscation order against him. His net earnings during the relevant period were £643,602.91. The available amount was agreed to be £96,737.24, and the judge ordered confiscation of that sum. The Court of Appeal allowed the appellant’s appeal and made no confiscation order, holding that to impose such would be disproportionate. The Crown appealed to the Supreme Court.
Appeal allowed, and confiscation order restored, albeit for different reasons:
- It would be disproportionate to make a confiscation order of the full net earnings as not making any deduction for the value of the services rendered would amount to a further penalty.
- The legal burden of proof in respect of section 6(5) is on the prosecution who must establish that it would not be disproportionate to require the defendant to pay the recoverable amount.
- When considering proportionality, the court should seek to confiscate the difference between the higher earnings obtained through fraud and the lower earnings that would have been obtained if there had been no fraud. This approach takes away the profit made by the fraud.
- The Court held a confiscation order of £244,568 would be proportionate as this represented the 38% difference between his pre-appointment earnings (£54,000 gross) and his post appointment income (£75,000 gross and £643,000 over the course of his fraudulently obtained employment). The recoverable amount was still £96,737.24.
This decision comes across as the kind of compromise more suited to civil litigation than confiscation. The court correctly distinguishes between a job that would have resulted in illegal performance, but acknowledges the appellant stood no chance of getting the job without the falsification of his qualifications. The court was explicit as to its justification for this pragmatic approach, “This is to adopt a principled ‘middle way’ in contrast to either a ‘take all’ approach or a ‘take nothing’ approach“. One wonders if this apparently principled approach will actually lead to fewer appeals on the issue of proportionality in such CV type cases.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org