- TUPE: Dismissal due to difficult working relationship may be automatically unfair
- Contract: When ‘Bad Leaver’ provisions may be considered a penalty or an unlawful deduction from wages
- Employment Status: Is a quarterly ‘exclusivity’ payment evidence that an individual is an employee?
- Worker Status: Pimlico plumber ‘worker’ loses holiday pay claim
- Equality Act: Is it unfair to send woman on maternity leave an important email she cannot access?
- Indirect Discrimination: Justification of rule more important than application of rule to individual
- Data Protection: ICO and Insolvency Service work together to disqualify directors in new record
- BREXIT: ICO website contains SME Brexit preparation tools
- Data Protection: Vote Leave Ltd fined £40,000 by ICO
- Immigration: Seasonal workers pilot opens
- Modern Slavery: Annual anti-slavery audit will result in naming and shaming the non-compliers
- Holiday Pay: BEIS publishes guidance and online calculator for workers without fixed hours/pay
- Wages: National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage set to increase from 1 April
TUPE: Can a dismissal due to difficult working relationship be automatically unfair?
In Hare Wines Ltd v Kaur  EWCA Civ 216 the question before the Court of Appeal was whether the Claimant’s dismissal for purely ‘personal reasons’, was a sufficient reason to prevent the dismissal from being automatically unfair as it related to a TUPE transfer. In this case, Mrs Kaur was a cashier for a wine wholesaler, which had been run by several different businesses during the time she had worked there, with common directors/shareholders. In 2014, the business was transferred under TUPE to Hare Wines Ltd. Mrs Kaur and Mr Chatha were colleagues with a strained working relationship. Mr Chatha became a director of Hare Wines Ltd. On the day of the transfer, Mrs Kaur was dismissed, and all the rest of the employees transferred under TUPE to Hare Wines Ltd. Mrs Kaur claimed this was automatically unfair as it was related to the transfer, and the tribunal agreed.
Hare Wines Ltd argued that Mrs Kaur had objected to the transfer because she did not wish to work with Mr Chatha, who was to become a director. However, the tribunal held that this was not the case, and that the real reason was that the business did not want her because it may have continuing difficulties between the individuals. On appeal to the EAT and then the Court of Appeal, the tribunal’s finding that she had not objected was upheld and that the reason for the dismissal was not that she had been dismissed because of her difficulties with Mr Chatha with the transfer being coincidental, it was that the employer did not want her because she and Mr Chatha did not get on. This was the principal reason. The relationship had been strained for some time and she had not been dismissed until the transfer was to happen, therefore the two were linked. The Court of Appeal noted that dismissals for economic, technical or organisational (aka ‘ETO’) reasons connected with transfers can be fair, but the law does not recognise any category of ‘personal’ reason for dismissal as preventing a transfer-related dismissal from being automatically unfair.
Contract: When ‘Bad Leaver’ provisions may be considered a penalty or an unlawful deduction from wages
In Nosworthy v Instinctif Partners Ltd UKEAT/0100/18, Miss Nosworthy had entered in to a Share Purchase Agreement and Articles of Association with the company, which contained some common bad leaver conditions. The conditions meant that a shareholder who is also an employee who voluntarily resigns is considered to be a bad leaver . In this case, the bad leaver provisions meant that when Miss Nosworthy resigned she was forced to forfeit deferred earn-out shares and loan notes – i.e. transfer her shares – with the value of the shares being determined at the acquisition cost (which was £143 for her 2% share). Miss Nosworthy claimed this forced transfer was a contract connected with employment and therefore could be considered to be unconscionable, a penalty or an unlawful deduction from wages
The tribunal disagreed, and this finding was upheld by the EAT. The criteria for setting aside an agreement as unconscionable were not satisfied – there had been no serious disadvantage. It was not a penalty as a result of a breach of contract, because it was a term of the Articles of Association which applied to any bad leaver, regardless of breach, and was not a breach of contract. Furthermore, the company’s remuneration committee, which had the power to reclassify her as a good leaver, had not failed to exercise its discretion in good faith because there were no exceptional circumstances for it to take into account. Lastly, it was not an unlawful deduction from wages, because the definition only covers payments made in respect of her capacity as a worker, whereas the shares were provided to her as a shareholder.
Employment Status: Is a quarterly ‘exclusivity’ payment evidence that an individual is an employee?
In Exmoor Ales Ltd & Another v Herriot UKEAT/0075/18/RN theEAT Mrs Herriot had provided accountancy services for Exmoor Ales, a brewery, for nearly three decades, submitting invoices from her partnership. Since 2011, the brewery had paid her £1,000 each quarter, which Mrs Herriot claimed was an exclusivity payment, but which the respondents denied. In 2017 Mrs Herriot brought claims against the brewery just before her work relationship with it ended. The claims were for unfair dismissal, age discrimination, holiday pay, failure to provide a statement of written particulars of employment, harassment and victimisation.
The tribunal found, on the evidence, that the quarterly payment did indeed change the nature of the relationship from that point onwards and that she did in fact, stop working for other clients. The brewery had also given her allocated seating in their premises, she was fully integrated into their business, and exercised a high level of control over her whilst at work. It was also noted that there was mutuality of obligations between the parties from April 2011 onwards, and she had no right to appoint a substitute. The tribunal therefore held that until that time, Mrs Herriot had been an independent contractor providing accountancy services to the brewery but after the quarterly payments started, she was in actual fact an employee.
The brewery appealed arguing that the tribunal had not looked at all the relevant factors on employment status, including her tax arrangements, and that she had prepared employment contracts for other staff but not herself, and was not a member of the employee share scheme. These were rejected by the EAT, however, because the tribunal had considered these elements but found the factors highlighted by it had overridden those identified by the Respondents. In this instance, the quarterly exclusivity payment had been an influencing factor although in reality it was the effect it had on their respective behaviours that led the tribunal and EAT to find her to be a de facto employee.
Worker Status: Pimlico plumber ‘worker’ loses holiday pay claim
Last year the Supreme Court ruled in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd & Another v Smith that the plumbers had been employed by Pimlico Plumbers as workers rather than being hired as independent contractors. As workers, this meant they were entitled to some basic employment rights such as the right to be paid the national minimum wage and holiday pay. At the end of his successful seven year battle with Pimlico Plumbers, Mr Smith began proceedings in the Croydon employment tribunal for backdated holiday pay. However, the tribunal ruled that he had not filed his claim quickly enough – the regulations state that claims for missed pay should be filed within 3 months of each holiday period, dating back to 2005. His claim amounted to £74,000. He is going to appeal this decision because he did not know he was entitled to paid leave while he was employed by Pimlico Plumbers so did not bring a claim until after his contract was terminated in May 2011.
Equality Act: Is it unfair to send woman on maternity leave an important email she cannot access?
In South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust v Jackson UKEAT/0090/18/BA the claimant was on maternity leave when she became part of a number of staff at risk of redundancy who were then sent an email by the HR department to their work email addresses, which the claimant could not access, setting out redeployment opportunities. She was not able to open the email for several days but this in itself did not cause her substantial harm. However, it raised a legitimate concern that such behaviour was unfavourable treatment (s.18(4) of the Equality Act) because she was exercising her right to take maternity leave, and it is on this ground that she made a claim.
The tribunal upheld her claim. However, the EAT found that the tribunal had erred in its approach to the causation test. Although the unfavourable treatment would not have happened “but for” the fact that the Claimant was on maternity leave, the tribunal had not considered whether this was the “reason why” she had been treated unfavourably. There was no finding by the tribunal as to why the Claimant was not able to access her emails, as she had in fact attended a meeting a few days before despite being on maternity leave.
Mr Justice Shanks said, the “ET must ask itself the standard “reason why” question in relation to why the unfavourable treatment took place and that it is not sufficient for the “but for” test to be satisfied for there to be a finding of discrimination under section 18.” He went on to say that it did not seem as if the tribunal had found that the characteristic of being on maternity leave had been on anyone’s mind, nor had the tribunal decided that an inherently discriminatory rule had been applied in this case. It seems to have been pure administrative error and therefore the test used by the tribunal was that ‘but for being on maternity leave, the Claimant would not have been disadvantaged’, which was not sufficient for a finding of discrimination. As a result the case was remitted back to the tribunal for further findings.
Contract: Suspending an employee does not always breach the implied term of trust and confidence
In The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo  EWCA Civ 322 a primary school teacher was accused of using excessive force with two pupils with special educational needs, and suspended pending investigation as a result. The teacher, Ms Agoreyo, resigned the same day. She claimed that the suspension had been a knee-jerk reaction and that an investigation did not require suspension. The suspension was a repudiatory breach of contract – a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence between them, and she was entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal.
At first instance, the County Court found that the school had reasonable and proper cause for her suspension. The claim was dismissed. Ms Agoreyo appealed. The High Court allowed the appeal on the basis that suspension should not be the default option – an individual should be suspended only if there is no reasonable alternative. The school had said the suspension was a neutral act but the High Court disagreed and said that it is never a neutral act. Ms Agoreyo’s resignation letter neither negated nor undermined the case on breach of the implied term as to trust and confidence.
On further appeal however, the Court of Appeal agreed with the County Court, and held there was no breach of trust and confidence. It found the High Court had erred in its test of whether it was necessaryto suspend was setting the bar too high and the correct legal test was whether the school had had reasonable and proper cause to suspend Ms Agoreyo. The County Court judge was entitled to hold that it did and Ms Agoreyo’s claim that her suspension was a breach of contract failed.
Indirect Discrimination: Justification of rule more important than application of rule to individual
In The City of Oxford Bus Services Limited t/a Oxford Bus Company v Harvey UKEAT/0171/18/JOJ a bus company had instituted a rule in the rostering system that bus drivers had to work 5 out of 7 days, including Saturdays or Sundays. Mr Harvey was a Seventh Day Adventist who asked not to work between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday so that he could observe the Sabbath. The bus company had given him a service that was able to take this into account but it was not a permanent arrangement and so he subsequently had to swap shifts or call in absent from work on the days when he was required to work a shift on Friday evening or Saturday daytime. They had also offered him flexible working but in the meantime he had brought a claim of indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.
The bus company argued that it feared that if it agreed to this as a permanent arrangement, more drivers would ask for time off for other religious reasons, particularly events and festivals, and this might result in industrial unrest. At tribunal it was accepted that the bus company’s working arrangements imposed a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ (“PCP”) that placed Mr Harvey at a disadvantage. So, the question then was, whether the PCP was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The tribunal found that the bus company had established legitimate aims of ensuring efficiency, fairness to all staff, and recruitment and retention. In upholding Mr Harvey’s claim, however, the tribunal ruled that the PCP was not justified becausethere was insufficient evidence to support one of the legitimate aims – maintaining a ‘harmonious workforce’.
On appeal to the EAT the decision was overturned the decision. It was incorrect of the tribunal to focus on the particular application of the rule on the claimant rather than the general justification for the rule. The tribunal had recognised that the bus company’s problems arose not from granting the Mr Harvey’s request, but from granting many such requests, and in doing so meant it had failed to balance the general aims of the bus company with the potentially discriminatory impact of the rule. The judge remitted the case back to the original tribunal to reconsider this issue.
Data Protection: ICO and Insolvency Service work together to disqualify directors in new record
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has carried out investigations into nuisance marketing which, by working with the Insolvency Service, has led to 16 company directors being banned from running a company for more than 100 years in total. One of the worst offenders was Richard Jones who has been barred from being a company director for eight years after his two companies, Your Money Rights Ltd and Miss-Sold Products UK Ltd were responsible for 220 million automated nuisance calls, most of which were in respect of PPI claims. The companies’ breaches resulted in total fines of £700,000 in 2017, which Mr Jones then tried to avoid by applying to wind up the companies. This was blocked by the ICO which then referred the case on to the Insolvency Service.
New legislation which came into force in December 2018 means that the ICO now has powers to make company directors and other company officers personally liable for the fines imposed for illegal marketing.
BREXIT: ICO website contains SME Brexit preparation tools
Who knows what the next few weeks have in store, but that’s not very helpful for businesses. Whilst most businesses may well be more prepared than the government, the ICO has produced guidance and practical tools to help organisations prepare in terms of their data, including: Data Protection and Brexit Law enforcement processing: Five steps to take, Data protection in the event of a no-deal Brexit, aimed at UK based businesses or organisations to which the GDPR or Part 3 of the Data Protection Act 2018 currently applies to their processing of personal data.
Data Protection: Vote Leave Ltd fined £40,000 by ICO
Vote Leave Limited has recently been fined £40,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending out thousands of unsolicited text messages run up to the 2016 EU referendum. An ICO investigation found that Vote Leave sent 196,154 text messages promoting the aims of the Leave campaign with the majority containing a link to its website. Vote Leave claimed the contact information it had used to message people was obtained from enquiries which had come through their website; from individuals who had responded via text to promotional leaflets; and from entrants to a football competition. However, the organisation said that following the conclusion of the referendum campaign it had deleted evidence of the consent relied upon to send the messages. Also deleted were details of the phone numbers the messages were sent from, the volume of messages sent, and the volume of messages received. Being unable to provide evidence that the people who received the messages had given their consent (a key requirement of electronic marketing law) made them liable for this fine.
This latest fine is part of the ICO’s ongoing investigation into the use of data in political campaigns. As a result of the investigation the ICO has taken action against a number of different organisations engaged in campaigning for breaches of direct marketing and data protection laws.
Immigration: Seasonal workers’ pilot opens
In September 2018, the Home Secretary and Environment Secretary announced that, having listened to farmers, they were introducing a nationwide pilot scheme seasonal workers to bring seasonal migrant workers to UK farms. The pilot opened on 6 March meaning that UK fruit and vegetable farmers will be able to employ migrant workers for seasonal work for up to 6 months. Subject to recruitment and visa application processes, the pilot, which runs until the end of December 2020, will allow up to 2,500 workers from outside the EU into the UK each year. Concordia and Pro-Force are the two scheme operators who have been licensed to manage the pilot. It is their responsibility to identify suitable workers who they will then match to UK farmers, as well as ensuring the welfare of the workers whilst they are in the UK.
The aim is to test the effectiveness of the immigration system at alleviating labour shortages during peak production periods.The pilot will be reviewed before any decisions are taken on running a future scheme.
Modern Slavery: Annual anti-slavery audit will result in naming and shaming the non-compliers
In October 2018, the Home Office was moved to action following pressure from numerous groups frustrated by what they see as ‘blatant compliance failures’. It began with the Home Office writing directly to the chief executives of 17,000 businesses telling them to open up about modern slavery in their supply chains, or risk being named as in breach of the Modern Slavery Act. The letter gave the companies a grace period to comply – which ends on 31 March 2019.
Those businesses which do not comply by the deadline date will be “named and shamed” in a public report. The ‘naming and shaming’ is seen as a prelude to strengthening the reporting requirements under the legislation and, possibly, introducing sanctions for non-compliance.
The government reports that:
Businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million must publish annual transparency statements, known as a Modern Slavery Statement, setting out what they are doing to stop modern slavery and forced labour practices occurring in their business and supply chains. At the moment, it is estimated that 60% of companies in scope have published a statement. Whilst there are many examples of good practice, some of these statements are poor in quality or fail to even meet the basic legal requirements.
Holiday Pay: BEIS publishes guidance and online calculator for workers without fixed hours/pay
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published guidance and an online calculator on how to calculate holiday pay for workers whose hours or pay are not fixed. This guidance is intended to help employers pay the correct amount of holiday pay for all their workers.
In simple terms, the Working Time Regulations 1998 mean that almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year, with the pay being calculated based on the amount of hours they work and how they are paid for those hours. For workers who do not work fixed or regular hours, and therefore do not receive the same amount of pay each week, month or other pay period, it can be more complicated. This guidance helps employers calculate holiday for such workers, using the holiday pay reference period (a worker’s previous 12 week paid period) and gives examples of what to do if you don’t have 12 weeks of data, when the reference period starts, what the definition of week is, etc.
Wages: National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage set to increase from 1 April
In the Budget 2018, in response to the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced new National Minimum/Living Wageincreases from 1 April 2019 as follows:
- from £7.83 to £8.21 for workers aged 25 and over (the National Living Wage)
- from £7.38 to £7.70 for 21-24 year olds
- from £5.90 to £6.15 for 18-20 year olds
- from £4.20 to £4.35 for 16-17 year olds
- from £3.70 to £3.90 for apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org.