Employment Law Newsletter – January 2022
Here we look at some of the big issues to occur over the last 12 months and what to expect over the coming year.
Hot topics of 2021:
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the employment landscape. While many had expected, or hoped, the changes brought by the pandemic would have plateaued in the latter half of 2021, many employees are only just returning to the workplace following a change in government guidance in December 2021. In some respects, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst, particularly around flexible and hybrid working, however the delays to key employment law developments expected to take place in 2021 continue into 2022. The pandemic has also formed the context of a number of cases that have come through the employment tribunal system as a result of remote working and the furlough scheme. There have also been a raft of cases involving unfair dismissals, where not knowing how to react to the difficulties brought by the virus sometimes led employers into trouble. Covid-19 also had a significant gendered economic impact on women.
Of course, Covid-19 sent the world into a tailspin with employers and employees both having to work out how to be productive despite very challenging circumstances, nevertheless it has highlighted the myriad of possibilities that exist. There have been calls by many respected business groups to make flexible working the default position, leading to a government consultation on the subject, and the CIPD calling for it as a day one right.
Equal Pay and the Gender Pay Gap
Big cases for Morrisons and Asda determined that (female) retail workers could be compared with those of (male) logistics workers at national distribution centres. Meanwhile, enforcement of gender pay gap reporting was put back six months in 2021 due to the pandemic, with most eligible companies now complying with their reporting obligations. There have now been calls for reporting of the ethnic pay gap, especially since some big firms have voluntarily started publishing results which include other diversity metrics including class, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disability – way beyond the minimum obligation, and tying in nicely with the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda.
The Employment Bill
The bill was promised in the 2019-20 parliamentary session but did not get past a first reading. It was omitted from the Queen’s speech in 2021 with the government response being it will be addressed “when parliamentary time allows”, namely once all the extra pandemic work is out of the way. There do seem to be small workings taking place though – with the single enforcement body for employment rights starting to take shape, but again, this will involve more parliamentary time to flesh out its bones. We continued to see the evolution of cases involving workers in the gig economy. This is an area that is not going away just yet, and we hope to see more clarification in the Bill when it is ready.
The Big Issues for 2022:
Changes to traditional 9-5 office-based working
Whilst some employers are now requiring their workforces to return to pre-pandemic working locations, the pandemic shifted and centralised the issue of flexible working for employers, with many now normalising a return to offices on a hybrid basis. A government consultation on making flexible working the “default position” ran from September to December 2021 and set out five proposals including making flexible working a day one right. Note that the government’s proposals do not introduce an automatic right for employees to work flexibly. Rather, the proposals include a number of measures to broaden the scope of the right, while retaining the basic system involving a conversation between employer and employee about how to balance work requirements and individual needs, potentially changing the statutory business reasons for refusing a flexible working request. As the consultation closed on 1 December 2021, it is unlikely there will be a response from the government until the latter half of 2022.
Some developing themes which employers may continue to face in 2022 include requests from employees to work flexibly abroad and the impact on wellbeing of continued working from home. Following research about the significant amount of hidden overtime while working from home during the pandemic, there have also been calls for the government to introduce a “right to disconnect“. This has recently been brought into effect in some European countries and is being discussed by the Scottish Government in relation to their own employees. It was also mentioned in a briefing paper on hybrid working published by the House of Commons Library in November 2021. Most recently, several big companies have announced their intention to trial four day working weeks, with senior managers under 35 being the most enthusiastic, understanding the impact on employees as well as improving retention and happiness. Perhaps this is the year that the oft quoted “good work-life balance” statement actually rings true.
Vaccinations at work
On 1 April 2022, following a consultation, regulations come into force which will make vaccination against COVID-19 a requirement for health and social care workers in a face-to-face role. It remains to be seen how employers in this sector will deal with unvaccinated employees. Employers in other sectors, who have a duty to maintain a safe workplace, have been encouraging staff to get vaccinated. In the absence of further government requirements on mandatory vaccinations, there would be risks for employers who may want to make vaccination a requirement for new or existing staff. The key legal problem will be the risk of potential unfair dismissal and potential discrimination claims if employees are dismissed for refusing to be vaccinated and the employer is unable to justify dismissal as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
New duty to prevent sexual harassment
On 21 July 2021, the government published its response to the 2019 consultation on workplace sexual harassment. The response confirmed a new duty for employers to prevent sexual and third-party harassment, which is likely to include a defence where an employer has taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent the harassment. The government will also consider the proposal to extend the time limits for claims under the Equality Act 2010, but has not yet committed to making any changes. The duty will come into force when Parliamentary time allows.
Review of gender pay gap reporting regulations
By April 2022, the government must review the gender pay gap regulations as they are obliged to do so within five years of the regulations coming into force (regulation 16(3), Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 (SI (2017/172)). The purpose of this review will be to assess the extent to which the reporting requirement achieved the objectives of the regulations, whether the objectives remain appropriate and whether any unnecessary burden is placed on employers.
Several data protection developments are likely to impact employment practitioners in 2022. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) proposed data protection reforms in its consultation which closed on 19 November 2021. The primary objective of the consultation was to seek views on the proposals to reduce the burden data protection places on businesses. In addition, the government sought views on how Article 22 of the UK GDPR should be interpreted in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) in several areas, including where it related to automated decision-making.
We are also expecting to see updated data protection and employment practices guidance in 2022 from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), following a call for views which ran until 28 October 2021. The new guidance will finally replace the ICO’s employment practices code, supplementary guidance and the quick guide, which have not been updated since the Data Protection Act 2018 came into force. The new guidance will cover topics including recruitment and selection, employment records, monitoring of workers, and information about workers’ health.
Human Rights Act 1998
In 2020, the government announced the launch of an independent review of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998), while emphasising its ongoing commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Independent Human Rights Act Review (IHRAR), conducted by an independent panel chaired by Sir Peter Gross, a former Court of Appeal judge, reported back to the government on 29 October 2021. On 14 December 2021, the Ministry of Justice published Human Rights Act Reform: A Modern Bill Of Rights, a consultation on replacing the HRA 1998 with a Bill of Rights. The full report conducted by the IHRAR Panel was also published on 14 December 2021. Whether the right to a jury trial should be recognised in the Bill of Rights and the introduction of a permission stage for human rights claims where claimants must establish they have suffered “significant disadvantage” or that the claim is of “overriding public importance” are key proposals included in the consultation document.
Many of the proposals are regarded as highly controversial. However, it should be recognised that the proposals are simply being consulted on at this stage and therefore whether they ultimately become law remains to be seen following the close of the consultation in March 2022.
Potential developments to look out for:
Single enforcement body for the labour market
In the Good Work Plan, the government announced an intention to bring forward proposals for a new single labour market enforcement agency. On 8 June 2021, BEIS published the government consultation response on the proposal, and confirmed they would consolidate three of the current enforcement bodies into a single agency with increased powers. On 22 November 2021, Margaret Beels OBE was appointed as the new Director of Labour Market Enforcement, and she plans to set the strategic direction for the three existing labour market enforcement bodies that will be amalgamated into the single body; the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Team. The formation of the new agency requires primary legislation and this will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows. The joined-up approach is intended to help improve enforcement through better co-ordination and pooling intelligence.
Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements
In July 2019, the government published its proposals to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the settlement of workplace harassment or discrimination complaints. The government reiterated that confidentiality clauses can serve a legitimate purpose in both employment contracts and settlement agreements but confirmed its intention to bring forward new legislation “when Parliamentary time allows“.
This measure has been significantly delayed due to the pandemic, but it is anticipated that the legislation (likely to be included in the long-awaited Employment Bill) will curb the use of NDA provisions in employment contracts and settlement agreements alongside a requirement for independent legal advice to be provided to individuals asked to sign an NDA. New enforcement measures will be introduced for NDAs in employment contracts and settlement agreements that do not comply with legal requirements.
In practice Employment lawyers have been ahead of the government on this matter. Since the emergence of the #MeToo movement settlement agreement have routinely included carve outs from the confidentiality provisions to allow ex-employees to report crimes, as well as seeking support from professionals providing medical, therapeutic, counselling and support services. As ever though without statutory backing the inclusion of such carve outs remains dependent on the negotiating powers of the parties involved.
Tipping, gratuities, cover and service charges
Another measure to be included in the Employment Bill, once progressed, is legislation that will see tips retained by hospitality staff in their entirety, except deductions required by tax law. Employers will also be required to distribute tips in a fair and transparent way, according to a published policy. A new Code of Practice on Tipping, to which employers will be required to have regard, is expected to replace the existing voluntary code of practice.
Neonatal leave and pay
On 16 March 2020, the government responded to a consultation on neonatal care leave, proposing the introduction of statutory neonatal leave and pay for up to 12 weeks for parents of babies requiring neonatal care. The government will legislate to implement the new entitlements in the forthcoming Employment Bill.
Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents
On 21 June 2021, the Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill was reintroduced to Parliament for a second time. The second reading of this Private Members’ Bill is scheduled for 18 March 2022. If passed, the Bill will prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the end of the pregnancy or maternity leave, except in specified circumstances. This follows the government’s statement on 22 July 2019 that it would expand redundancy protection in response to a BEIS consultation on the matter. The government has since reiterated their intention to extend the period of redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents would progress as part of the Employment Bill “when Parliamentary time allows“. It remains unclear whether the extended redundancy protection will be implemented through the Private Members’ Bill or the Employment Bill.
Leave for unpaid carers
On 23 September 2021 the government published a response to its consultation on carer’s leave. In the response, the government committed to introducing a right for unpaid carers to take up to a week of unpaid leave per year. There is no scheduled timetable for the introduction of this right; it will progress when Parliamentary time allows.
Ethnicity pay gap reporting
In 2018, the government launched a series of measures to tackle barriers facing ethnic minorities in the workplace, including a consultation on the introduction of mandatory ethnicity pay reporting, based on the model of mandatory gender pay gap reporting. While the government is still considering mandatory ethnic pay reporting, and has failed to respond to its consultation (which closed in January 2019), there has been a wider move towards voluntary collection of diversity data to help companies identify and address existing barriers to access or promotion.
Disability workforce reporting
The government is consulting on disability workforce reporting for large employers with 250 or more employees and is expected to publish their response on 17 June 2022, as part of the National Disability Strategy. Through the consultation the government hope to glean information on current reporting practices, arguments for and against implementing a mandatory approach and how such a mandatory approach may be implemented. The consultation also requests views on alternative approaches to enhance transparency and increase inclusivity for disabled people in the workforce. The consultation will accept submissions until 25 March 2022.
Whistleblowing review and new EU Directive
BEIS announced a review of whistleblowing legislation, following the publication of data showing that one in four COVID-19 whistleblowers who contacted the whistleblowing advice service, Protect, were dismissed between September 2020 and March 2021. The scope of the review has not yet been confirmed and whether it is to fall within the remit of the single body to enforce workers’ rights. Although the UK will not be required to implement the new EU Whistleblowing Directive (2019/1937/EU), the Directive may still influence whistleblowing practice, especially for pan-European organisations operating in multiple locations. Since 17 December 2021, EU member states have been obliged to bring into force the laws necessary to establish internal reporting channels. (For private sector entities with between 50 and 249 workers, the implementation deadline is extended to December 2023.) The Directive also requires measures to be implemented to protect a whistleblower’s identity, acknowledge disclosures within seven days and provide a response within a reasonable period.
Post-termination non-compete clauses
On 4 December 2020, BEIS opened a consultation on measures to reform post-termination non-compete clauses in employment contracts. The consultation, which closed on 26 February 2021, sought views on proposals to require employers to continue paying compensation to employees for the duration of a post-termination non-compete clause, requiring employers to confirm in writing to employees the exact terms of a non-compete clause before their employment commences, introducing a statutory limit on the length of non-compete clauses, or banning the use of post-termination non-compete clauses altogether. The government is yet to report the results of the consultation.
Extending ban on exclusivity clauses
Another consultation was launched by BEIS on 4 December 2020, on measures to extend the ban on exclusivity clauses in employment contracts to cover those earning under the Lower Earnings Limit, currently £120 a week. This would prevent employers from contractually restricting low earning employees from working for other employers. This consultation, which was launched in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on low earners, closed on 26 February 2021 but there is not currently a timetable for the next developments.
Working conditions in digital labour platforms
The European Commission has adopted a package of measures to improve working conditions in digital labour platform work and support their sustainable growth in the EU. The measures include a Directive, to which the UK will not be bound but which may prove to be influential.
On 20 January, the Court of Appeal heard the appeal in Kocur & Others v Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd, part of the latest instalment in long-running litigation involving agency workers supplied to Royal Mail. In the decision under appeal, the EAT concluded that the right of agency workers under regulation 13 of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/93) to be informed by their hirer of any relevant vacant posts with the hirer does not encompass a right to be entitled to apply, and be considered, for vacancies on the same terms as employees recruited directly by the hirer. The EAT also held, among other things, that there was no breach of the principle of equal treatment in agency workers’ shift lengths being 12 minutes longer than those of direct recruits, nor in direct recruits being given first refusal in relation to overtime. The judgment is awaited.
On 9 November 2021, the Supreme Court heard the case of Harpur Trust v Brazel. Judgment is awaited on whether “part-year workers” (those working only part of the year, such as during school terms) should have their annual leave entitlement capped at 12.07% of annualised hours. Once the case reached the Court of Appeal, Unison was given permission to intervene as an issue of general importance was raised regarding the calculation of holiday pay. The case was widely reported at the latter stages and may lead to further claims being brought by part-time employees. Therefore, the Supreme Court judgment is highly anticipated in the hope it will provide further clarity.
In Smith v Pimlico Plumbers Ltd, the EAT found that the ECJ’s ruling in King v Sash Window Workshop Ltd (Case C-214/16) EU:C:2017:914 should not be interpreted as meaning that a worker is entitled to carry over untaken annual leave where the worker was permitted to take leave that was unpaid. Although King established that a worker is entitled to carry over annual leave that is not taken because the employer refuses to pay for it (thereby discouraging the worker from taking leave), the principle does not apply to leave that was actually taken. The worker in this case, a plumbing and heating engineer, was therefore unable to rely on King when asserting his right to be paid for holiday he had taken at the time when his employer did not accept that he was a worker within the meaning of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) (WTR 1998). The main issue is likely to be whether unpaid leave can properly be regarded as leave for the purposes of the WTR 1998. The Court of Appeal heard the case on 7 and 8 December 2021 and judgment is awaited.
In Baker and others v Royal Mail, 120 postmasters and sub-postmasters brought an employment tribunal claim against the Post Office. The claimants run Post Office franchises but seek recognition as workers because of the degree of control the Post Office has over the work they do. The same argument was used successfully in the landmark Uber BV and others vs Aslam and others on which the Supreme Court ruled in February 2021. A judgment is yet to be delivered in this case and could have implications beyond the specific claimants as there are thousands of sub-postmasters across the UK.
The EAT is expected to deliver judgment in Mackereth v Department for Work and Pensions and another which concerns the refusal of a Christian doctor, engaged to carry out health assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions, to address transgender patients by their chosen pronoun. The EAT will consider an employment tribunal’s finding that while the doctor’s Christianity is protected under the Equality Act 2010, his particular beliefs, that God only created males and females, that a person cannot choose their gender and his conscientious objection to transgenderism, are not protected as they amount to views incompatible with human dignity and therefore conflict with the fundamental rights of others. The EAT heard the case on 18 and 19 October 2021 and judgment is awaited.
Lastly, Chell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Ltd was heard by the Court of Appeal in November 2021 and we are awaiting the outcome. The initial decision by the County Court, upheld by the High Court, found that an employer was not negligent or vicariously liable for a contractor’s personal injury suffered in its workplace because of an employee’s practical joke. The County Court held that devising and implementing a health and safety policy which factored in horseplay, or practical jokes, was expecting too much of an employer.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employment Law Newsletter – October 2021
- Sex Discrimination: Charitable fostering agency policy on homosexual behaviour is unlawful
- Sex Discrimination: Tribunal erred in striking out menopause disability and sex discrimination claims
- Age Discrimination: EAT upholds opposing tribunal decisions on justification of the same compulsory retirement policy
- Whistleblowing: Tribunal applied wrong causation test and failed to distinguish between qualifying and non-qualifying disclosures
- Data Protection: ICO data sharing code of practice under DPA 2018 in force
- Gig Economy: Pensions Regulator welcomes Uber pension scheme but warns gig economy
- New Legislation: Consultation response to tipping, gratuities, cover and service charges
- Diversity: Many employers struggle to recruit Black graduates and fail to provide adequate support in the workplace
- Sexual Harassment: Fawcett Society report shows significant levels of sexual harassment at work
- Artificial Intelligence: PwC reports on the likely impact of AI on the UK labour market
Sex Discrimination: Charitable fostering agency policy on homosexual behaviour is unlawful
In R (Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Services Ltd) v Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted)  EWCA Civ 1390, Cornerstone, an independent fostering agency which operates as a charity adhering to evangelical Christian principles, had a recruitment policy requiring foster carers to refrain from “homosexual behaviour“. Cornerstone is regulated by Ofsted, which determined that the recruitment policy should be amended because it was a violation of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Cornerstone unsuccessfully applied for judicial review of Ofsted’s decision, the High Court holding that Cornerstone was subject to the EqA 2010 and the ECHR as a hybrid public authority, and that the policy unlawfully discriminated, directly and indirectly, against gay men and lesbians.
Cornerstone appealed to the Court of Appeal. In a unanimous judgment it held that Cornerstone’s policy was a clear instance of direct and indirect discrimination because of sexual orientation. The Court of Appeal considered whether the policy could be justified, under section 19 of the EqA 2010 for indirect discrimination and under section 193(2)(a) in respect of direct discrimination, an exception which allows charities to restrict the provision of benefits to persons who share a protected characteristic where that is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
For reasons similar but not identical to the High Court, the Court of Appeal held the policy was not capable of being justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. It emphasised that courts should be slow to accept that prohibiting fostering agencies from discriminating against homosexuals was a disproportionate limitation on their right to manifest their religion. The requirement that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation required weighty reasons to justify differential treatment was heavily underscored by statute in the case of a religious organisation that provided services to the public. Cornerstone had failed to provide credible evidence to justify the policy.
In concluding comments, the Court of Appeal noted that the appeal was a collision between two protected characteristics and accepted the need to protect those who are discriminated against in small numbers to progress equality for wider communities.
Sex Discrimination: Tribunal erred in striking out menopause disability and sex discrimination claims
In Rooney v Leicester City Council (EA-2020-000070-DA and EA-2021-000256-DA) the EAT has held that a tribunal erred in holding that an employee suffering from menopausal symptoms was not disabled under the Equality Act 2010, and in dismissing her disability and sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation claims. The tribunal’s judgment failed to properly analyse the claims and consider the evidence presented to it, and it was not Meek-compliant as it did not adequately explain why the claims were dismissed. The claims were remitted to a differently constituted tribunal.
This case is an example of the difficulties faced by menopausal women in the workplace and the challenges that can arise in establishing that their symptoms amount to a disability. Despite setting out the employee’s comprehensive list of symptoms and the adverse effects on her day-to-day activities, the tribunal’s conclusion was that the effects were only minor or trivial. This is only the second appellate case concerning menopause discrimination at work that we are aware of, illustrating that these decisions are rarely appealed. The Women and Equalities Committee have recently held an inquiry into this area and their recommendations are awaited.
A reminder that ACAS has produced guidance for employers on how to deal with the impact of the menopause on employees at work: https://www.acas.org.uk/menopause-at-work.
Age Discrimination: EAT upholds opposing tribunal decisions on justification of the same compulsory retirement policy
In conjoined appeals in Pitcher v Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford  9 WLUK 293 regardingProfessor Pitcher (an Associate Professor of English Literature at Oxford University and an Official Fellow and Tutor in English at St John’s College) and Professor Ewart (an Associate Professor in Atomic and Laser Physics at the University), the EAT has upheld two opposing employment tribunal decisions on the objective justification of a directly discriminatory employer justified retirement age (EJRA) operated by Oxford University and St John’s College. In the first case, an employment tribunal found the EJRA to be justified and the retirement dismissal fair. In contrast, in the second case, a differently constituted employment tribunal upheld the direct age discrimination and unfair dismissal claims, finding that the EJRA was not objectively justified.
The EAT dismissed the appeals against both employment tribunal decisions. The EJRA facilitated the achievement of the legitimate aims (inter-generational fairness, succession planning, and equality and diversity) by ensuring vacancy creation was not delayed. In terms of objective justification, the EAT held that the nature of the assessment undertaken by employment tribunals means it is possible for different tribunals to reach different conclusions when considering the same measure adopted by the same employer in respect of the same aims. While acknowledging that that it is undesirable for an employer to be faced with conflicting tribunal decisions relating to a particular policy, the EAT’s task is not to strive to find a single answer, but to consider whether either tribunal erred in law.
There were two material differences in the way in which the evidence was presented to the tribunals. First, one tribunal had the benefit of statistical evidence on the impact of the EJRA upon the creation of vacancies, which was not available to the other tribunal. Second, the tribunals received different evidence on the detriment suffered by those to whom the EJRA applied and so were entitled to give different weight to the mitigating factors relied on. Following a detailed analysis of the evidence considered and the reasoning adopted by each tribunal, the EAT concluded that neither had erred in law in coming to the conclusions they had on objective justification.
While the upholding of opposing decisions is undesirable from a wider employment law perspective, particularly for employers seeking to justify their own compulsory retirement policy, it demonstrates the importance that such employers should place on evidence or, if unavailable, reasoned projections of the impact of a policy on the achievement of its legitimate aims.
Whistleblowing: Tribunal applied wrong causation test and failed to distinguish between qualifying and non-qualifying disclosures
In Secure Care Ltd v Mott EA-2019-000977-AT (19 October 2021) the EAT has overturned a tribunal’s decision that an employee had been automatically unfairly dismissed in a whistleblowing case. The claimant, Mr Mott, had made a number of complaints to his employer about staff shortages, long working hours, rest breaks and other staffing difficulties, which he said endangered health and safety. He was dismissed, ostensibly for redundancy, and brought a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal under section 103A of the Employment Rights Act 1996, arguing that he had been selected for redundancy because he had made protected disclosures.
The tribunal found that three of his nine alleged disclosures were qualifying disclosures and that these met the test for protected disclosures. The tribunal found that “the fact that he had been ‘pointing out problems’ (in a number of communications some of which amounted to qualifying disclosures) clearly had a material effect on his selection [for redundancy]“. Although there was a genuine redundancy situation, Mr Mott’s dismissal was therefore automatically unfair.
On the employer’s appeal, the EAT held that the tribunal had erred in two respects. First, it had wrongly applied the test in Fecitt v NHS Manchester  ICR 372 (CA), in considering whether the protected disclosures “materially influenced” the employer’s treatment of the claimant. This test should only be applied to claims for detriment short of dismissal under section 47B. The unfair dismissal test under section 103A is whether the protected disclosures were the “sole or principal reason” for dismissal.
Second, the tribunal had failed to confine its consideration to the effect of the three protected disclosures. Rather, it had considered the combined impact and effect of the claimant’s communications about staffing levels and the associated problems this gave rise to.
Data Protection: ICO data sharing code of practice under DPA 2018 in force
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has updated its Data sharing information hub, confirming that a new version of its statutory data sharing code of practice came into force on 5 October 2021. The code provides practical guidance for organisations on how to share personal data in compliance with the requirements of the UK General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) (UK GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018), including transparency, the lawful basis for processing, the accountability principle and the need to document processing requirements. Section 121 of the DPA 2018 requires the ICO to issue a data sharing code, either by way of amendments to an existing code or by way of a replacement code. The new code replaces the previous version of the data sharing code of practice, published in 2011 under the Data Protection Act 1998. The code has been issued under section 125 of the DPA 2018; a failure to act in accordance with it does not of itself make a person liable to legal proceedings in a court or tribunal, but the code is admissible in evidence in legal proceedings.
Gig Economy: Pensions Regulator welcomes Uber pension scheme but warns gig economy
Website ‘Moneymarketing.co.uk’ reports that The Pensions Regulator has warned gig economy employers that they must “voluntarily and promptly” comply with their auto-enrolment obligations or risk enforcement action.
This comes after Uber recently announced its plan to offer a pension scheme provided by NOW: Pensions to all its eligible UK drivers, following the Supreme Court’s February 2021 ruling that Uber drivers were “workers” and therefore qualified for auto-enrolment.
Commenting on the news, a spokesperson for the Regulator welcomed the “landmark” initiative, adding that “we want to see all eligible workers in this sector have access to pensions saving“.
New Legislation: Consultation response to tipping, gratuities, cover and service charges
The government has responded to the 2016 consultation on tipping, gratuities, cover and service charges, and has confirmed its intention, first announced in 2018, to legislate to provide that tips left for workers are retained by them in full.
Measures to be included in the forthcoming Employment Bill will include:
- Requirements for employers in all sectors not to make any deductions from tips received by their staff, including administration charges, other than those required by tax law.
- Requirements for employers to distribute tips in a way that is fair and transparent, with a written policy on tips, and a record of how tips have been dealt with. Employers will be able to distribute tips via a tronc, and a tip must be dealt with no later than the end of the month following the month in which it was paid by the customer.
- Provisions to allow workers to make a request for information relating to an employer’s tipping record. Employers will have flexibility in how to design and communicate a tipping record, but should respond within four weeks.
- Requirements for employers to have regard to a statutory Code of Practice on Tipping. It is expected that this would replace the existing voluntary code of practice, published in 2009.
Workers will be able to enforce these rights in the employment tribunals. The response states that the Employment Bill will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows. The new rules are expected to come into force no earlier than one year after the Bill has been enacted.
Diversity: Many employers struggle to recruit Black graduates and fail to provide adequate support in the workplace
Two new reports show that many employers continue to struggle to recruit and retain Black employees. Many Black job applicants feel they are treated unfairly in the recruitment process and continue to face racism at work with inadequate support. The Institute of Student Employers reported that 54% of employers have a strategy to attract Black candidates to their business but only 44% of employers track retention. Another survey, Race at Work, has found that although job applicants from Caribbean (71%) and African (67%) backgrounds are more likely to use a recruitment agency than white people (47%), only 34% of Black candidates felt they are treated fairly, compared to 49% of white people.
Black employees continue to face specific challenges in the workplace, including explicit and covert racism and a lack of representation of Black people in senior positions. Black graduates have called for more support to help successfully transition into the workforce. Currently, less than a quarter of employers provide dedicated support to help their Black recruits address the challenges they face.
The Institute of Student Employers identified that to make a tangible difference, CEO backing is required, and set out five ways companies can support Black graduates before and during their careers, including:
- Being an ally
- Preparing all students for diverse workplaces and addressing racism and diversity as part of this
- Turning recruitment into a force for equality – ensuring that recruitment processes are overhauled to ensure that they are not biased and discriminatory
- Maximising the potential of hires from Black heritage backgrounds – Recognising that organisations need to support hires from Black heritage backgrounds during their early careers
- Transforming your organisation and influencing the world around you – Calling on all stakeholders to make more fundamental changes to ensure representation at all levels of their organisations and that they should lend their voices to wider campaigns for racial justice.
Additionally, the Race at Work report makes several recommendations for the recruitment industry and employers including:
- Critically examining entry requirements, focusing on potential achievement rather than which university or school the individual went to
- Drafting job specifications in plain English and providing an accurate reflection of essential and desirable skills to ensure applications from a wider set of individuals
- Larger employers ensuring that the selection and interview process is undertaken by more than one person, ideally including individuals from different backgrounds to help eliminate bias
- Seeking opportunities to provide work experience to a more diverse group of individuals and stopping the practice of unpaid or unadvertised internships.
Sexual Harassment: Fawcett Society report shows significant levels of sexual harassment at work
A new report published by the Fawcett Society, Tackling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, shows that at least 40% of women experience sexual harassment during their career. Twenty-three per cent of those surveyed said that the sexual harassment increased or escalated while they were working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disabled women surveyed were more likely to have experienced sexual harassment (68%) than women in general (52%). Employees from ethnic minority backgrounds, both men and women, reported experiencing sexual harassment at a higher level than white employees, with rates of 32% and 28% respectively. The report also found that 68% of LGBT employees had experienced harassment in the workplace.
Culture, policy, training, reporting mechanisms and the way employers respond to reports are five critical elements to help create a workplace intolerant of sexual harassment. The report recommends that employers should:
- Take all forms of sexual harassment seriously.
- Treat employees who report sexual harassment with respect and empathy and ensure women feel able to report harassment, including facilitating anonymous reporting.
- Increase gender equality within the organisation, especially at senior levels.
- Demonstrate leadership commitment to tackling harassment.
- Measure their organisational attitudes towards sexual harassment by conducting an employee survey.
- Provide managers dealing with reports with guidance and support.
- Have a clear and detailed sexual harassment policy that is separate to their general harassment and bullying policy.
The recommendations in the report will form the basis of a sexual harassment toolkit for employers which will be published next January. Employers can sign up to receive a copy of the toolkit (see Fawcett Society: Sexual Harassment Toolkit for Employers).
Artificial Intelligence: PwC reports on the likely impact of AI on the UK labour market
On 8 October 2021, BEIS published a report prepared by PwC, The Potential Impact of Artificial Intelligence on UK Employment and the Demand for Skills. For the purposes of the report, artificial intelligence (AI) is a collective term for digital systems and machines that can, in at least some ways, sense their environment, think, learn and take action in response to what they are sensing and their objectives. The report considers two main questions:
- Whether AI and related technologies (such as robots, drones and autonomous vehicles) will follow historical patterns by triggering significant structural labour market change.
- How large the disruption to labour markets from AI will be and what form it will take.
The report concludes that, while AI and related technologies should not cause mass technological unemployment (by displacing large numbers of workers from their jobs), they may lead to significant changes in the structure of employment across occupations, sectors and regions of the UK. The effects may be relatively small over the next five years but could become more material over the next ten to 20 years. They may add to income inequalities by tending to favour people with higher education and skills levels, who also tend to have higher earnings levels.
PwC’s modelling estimates that professional occupations will experience the highest net job gains over time, with nearly half the increase being in jobs for health professionals and the other half spread between scientists, researchers, engineers, technologists, educators, businesspeople, media professionals and civil servants. AI in these occupations is likely to be largely labour-augmenting and used to perform specific tasks that increase productivity (for example, lawyers using AI to read large numbers of cases to search for precedents and other arguments to use in a current case). Managerial occupations, for which tasks involved are difficult to automate, and occupations requiring “human touch” (such as caring or leisure) are also likely to experience net job creation. Other occupations are likely to experience changing patterns over time, with sales and customer services experiencing the highest rate of job displacement over the next five years, administration experiencing particularly high displacement in five to ten years and manual occupations (including taxi drivers) experiencing high rates of displacement but probably not before the 2030s.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
Employment Law Newsletter – July 2021
- Constructive Dismissal: EAT holds constructive dismissal can amount to an act of unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010
- Indirect Discrimination: Headscarf ban capable of justification only if it applies to all visible signs of political, philosophical or religious belief
- COVID-19: Employee who remained in Italy at outbreak of pandemic was automatically unfairly dismissed
- Employment Status: Deliveroo riders do not fall within scope of trade union freedom right under Article 11 ECHR given lack of employment relationship with Deliveroo
- COVID-19: ET3 accepted out of time when employer argued it had not received notification of ET1 submitted in first lockdown
- Compensation: Tribunal entitled to assess discrimination compensation on basis of career-long loss where claimant suffered from PTSD, depression and paranoia
- Disability Discrimination: Tribunal erred in law by failing to consider claimant’s challenge to employer’s justification defence
- Ethnic Pay Gap: CBI, TUC and ECHR sign letter calling for mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting
- Data Protection: European Commission adopts UK adequacy decisions
- Flexible Working: CIPD warns there is a risk of developing a ‘two-tier’ workforce over access to flexible working
- Low Pay: In-work Progression Commission report on removing barriers faced by those on low pay
- COVID-19: Treasury direction extending Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to 30 September 2021
- ACAS: New guidance published on hybrid working
- Flexible Working: SMF survey reveals that 80% of workers would be against a four-day working week in exchange for lower pay
Constructive Dismissal: EAT holds constructive dismissal can amount to an act of unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010
In Driscoll (née Cobbing) v V & P Global Ltd and another EA-2020-000876, the EAT has held that a constructive dismissal can constitute an act of unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act), departing from its earlier contrary decision, Timothy James Consulting Ltd v Wilton  ICR 764.
The harassment provisions in the Act must be construed purposively, so as to conform with all relevant EU directives, on which the original legislative wording was based. However, in Wilton, the EAT had not referred to the European law, simply holding that harassment in the context of employment, as prohibited by section 40 of the Act, did not expressly include resignation amounting to constructive dismissal. Having examined the relevant directives, the EAT was satisfied that each of them proscribes harassment on the grounds of their respective protected characteristics, including in relation to dismissals. It was notable that, under the directives, harassment is expressly deemed to be a form of direct or indirect discrimination, and should be treated as such. Further, the ECJ has long held that the term “dismissal” is to be construed widely to include, for example, termination as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme and reaching an age limit under an employer’s general retirement policy. There was therefore no principled basis for excluding constructive dismissal from the scope of the applicable directives.
The EAT also drew support from domestic case law, namely Meikle v Nottinghamshire County Council  ICR 1, where the Court of Appeal held that a constructive dismissal could amount to a discriminatory act for the purpose of a disability discrimination claim.
In light of its analysis, the EAT held that Wilton was not correctly decided. As the decision was “manifestly wrong”, it was appropriate for the EAT to depart from its earlier decision. Accordingly, where an employee resigns in response to repudiatory conduct which constitutes or includes unlawful harassment related to a protected characteristic, the constructive dismissal is itself capable of constituting “unwanted conduct” for the purpose of section 26 of the Act.
Indirect Discrimination: Headscarf ban capable of justification only if it applies to all visible signs of political, philosophical or religious belief
In IX v WABE eV (Cases C‑804/18 and C‑341/19) EU:C:2021:594, the ECJ has bolstered existing case law on religious dress bans in the workplace, holding that an employer’s policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality may justify indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief caused by a rule prohibiting the wearing of any visible sign of such beliefs. An employer’s aim of preventing social conflicts may also be a legitimate aim.
However, a dress ban limited to conspicuous, large-sized signs of political, philosophical and religious belief is likely to be directly discriminatory, which cannot be justified. As such, an employer’s ban must apply to all such signs if its indirectly discriminatory effects are to be capable of objective justification.
To objectively justify indirect discrimination on the ground of religion or belief caused by an employer’s dress code, it is necessary for the employer to show that the rule meets a genuine need, taking account of the rights and legitimate wishes of customers or users as well as the adverse impact to the employer in the absence of such a policy. The aim must be appropriate for the purpose of achieving the aim pursued and limited to what is strictly necessary. In the context of a policy of neutrality, this requires it to be applied in a consistent and systematic manner, to include all visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs and to be limited in application to only those workers who come into contact with customers or users.
When examining whether indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief resulting from an employer’s rule is objectively justified, the rights and freedoms recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights must be taken into account. In addition, a national rule that lays down an additional requirement for justifying an employer’s rule must also be considered.
COVID-19: Employee who remained in Italy at outbreak of pandemic was automatically unfairly dismissed
The employment tribunal in Montanaro v Lansafe Ltd ET/2203148/2020 held that an employee is automatically unfairly dismissed if the reason (or, if more than one, the principal reason) for their dismissal is that, in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, they took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect themselves or others from the danger (section 100(1)(e), Employment Rights Act 1996).
Mr Montanaro (M) was employed by Lansafe Ltd (L) Ltd from 17 February 2020 and provided services to L’s client, B. M believed he had permission to take holiday on 9 and 10 March for his sister’s wedding in Italy. On 9 March, Italy went into lockdown and UK government guidance stipulated 14 days’ isolation on return from Italy. On 10 March, M was told to keep his mobile and laptop on and wait for instructions. On 11 March, L sent a letter to M in London (despite knowing he was in Italy) advising that he had been dismissed with effect from 6 March for failing to follow company procedures and taking unauthorised leave. In absence of communication from L, M was told by B to continue working remotely and M sent information to L about travel restrictions in Italy. On 1 April, L sent M’s P45 and final payslip by email. M successfully claimed automatic unfair dismissal under section 100(1)(e).
The tribunal held that there were circumstances of danger, given the declaration of a pandemic and the risk of catching a contagious virus which could lead to serious illness and death, and that M reasonably believed the danger was serious and imminent. M had taken appropriate steps to protect himself and others. He had asked L for advice, instructions and assistance with documentation had L initially wanted him to fly to London. He had forwarded appropriate information about the situation in Italy. He was ready to receive communication and instructions for work on his mobile and laptop. When he didn’t hear from L he communicated direct with B and continued his work on a day-to-day basis. The purported dismissal letter had not been relevant to M’s circumstances and L’s evidence as to the reason for dismissal had not been credible. M had been dismissed because he had communicated the difficulties posed by the pandemic and proposed to work remotely from Italy until circumstances changed.
Employment Status: Deliveroo riders do not fall within scope of trade union freedom right under Article 11 ECHR given lack of employment relationship with Deliveroo
The Court of Appeal in Independent Workers Union of Great Britain v Central Arbitration Committee and another  EWCA Civ 952 has unanimously held that Deliveroo riders do not fall within the scope of the trade union freedom right under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights because they are not “in an employment relationship” with Deliveroo. The Central Arbitration Committee had been entitled to reach the conclusion it did given that Deliveroo riders are, genuinely, not under an obligation to provide their services personally and have a “virtually unlimited” right of substitution.
In reaching its decision, the court confirmed that the question of whether Article 11 is engaged in respect of the right to form and join trade unions should be determined having regard to the International Labour Organisation Recommendation 198 (2006). This broadly reflects the position taken in domestic law in identifying the characteristics not only of a contract of service but also a “worker contract”. In particular, it refers to the fact that work “must be carried out personally by the worker”. The absence of such an obligation, as in the case of Deliveroo riders, must therefore point away from worker status and an employment relationship. The decision reiterates the importance of personal service and the value of genuine and unfettered rights of substitution when seeking to argue that an individual is neither an employee nor a worker.
COVID-19: ET3 accepted out of time when employer argued it had not received notification of ET1 submitted in first lockdown
If a respondent wishes to defend an employment tribunal claim, it must present its response (using the prescribed ET3 form) to the tribunal office within 28 days of the date on which it was sent a copy of the claim by the tribunal. If the 28-day deadline has expired the respondent must make a written application for an extension of time, copied to the claimant, setting out the reason why the extension is sought and stating whether it requests a hearing. The application must be accompanied by either a draft of the response, or an explanation of why it is not possible to attach a draft.
In Fyfe v Arcadis Human Resources Ltd ET/4102033/2020 Mr Fyfe submitted an ET1, claiming breach of contract and age discrimination, during the initial phase of the first COVID-19 lockdown. The tribunal’s notification of the claim was not received by Arcadis Human Resources Ltd despite it having an operational post room with skeleton staff throughout lockdown. On 15 July 2020, Mr Fyfe sent Arcadis an email attaching his evidence prior to a final hearing on 17 July 2020. Arcadis immediately instructed a solicitor who contacted the tribunal to put himself on the record, request copies of the ET1 and indicate that Arcadis wished to defend the claim and apply for an extension of time to do so. On 16 July 2020, a written application and draft ET3 were sent to the tribunal. The hearing on 17 July 2020 was converted to a preliminary hearing to hear the application.
The tribunal accepted that these events occurred at an unprecedented time, when many individuals and organisations were adjusting to new working practices, and that Arcadis had not received notification of the claim. It noted the guidance on the exercise of discretion given by the EAT in Kwik Save Stores Ltd v Swain  ICR 49. Arcadis had acted swiftly once it knew of the claim. Considering the balance of prejudice, while Mr Fyfe would not now succeed on a “default judgment” basis, he might still prove his case. By contrast, if Arcadis was precluded from participating, it might have judgment against it in relation to serious matters. Given the overriding objective and interests of justice, the extension of time was allowed and the ET3 was accepted.
Compensation: Tribunal entitled to assess discrimination compensation on basis of career-long loss where claimant suffered from PTSD, depression and paranoia
The EAT, in Secretary of State for Justice v Plaistow UKEAT/0016/20 and UKEAT/0085/20, has upheld an employment tribunal’s decision to calculate compensation for direct sexual orientation discrimination and harassment on the basis of career-long loss. The employee suffered from PTSD, depression and symptoms of paranoia, as well as other functional impairments, and his conditions were likely to be life-long. His case was one of the rare cases where a career-long basis for assessment of financial loss was appropriate.
However, the EAT allowed appeals against various other aspects of the calculation, including the employment tribunal’s decision to apply only a 5% discount to reflect the possibility of employment being cut short for another reason (for example, due to early death, disability or other unforeseen circumstances) and its award of a 20% uplift for failure to comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. The EAT accepted that the employment tribunal had not demonstrated that it had considered the absolute financial value of the award it was making, despite having evidence that would have given it a clear indication of the probable level of award in issue (likely to be over £2 million).
The case is a rare example of an individual being treated so badly in their employment that the resulting injury was likely to be permanent, meaning that it was very unlikely that they would be able to return to any work before retirement age and therefore justifying compensation on a career-long basis.
Disability Discrimination: Tribunal erred in law by failing to consider claimant’s challenge to employer’s justification defence
In Brightman v TIAA Limited  UKEAT/0318/19 the EAT has held that a tribunal erred in law by failing to consider a claimant’s challenge to her employer’s justification defence in respect of her discrimination arising from disability claim.
Mrs Brightman had various long-term conditions and was disabled for the purpose of the Equality Act 2010. This was not in dispute. On 11 January 2017, she was dismissed by reason of capability on the basis of the available medical evidence, the fact that no further adjustments were possible, her unacceptable level of attendance (which her employer concluded was likely to continue) and the lack of alternative roles. She unsuccessfully appealed and brought various claims, including unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability. The tribunal dismissed her claims. She appealed to the EAT.
The EAT noted the following:
- Mrs Brightman’s last day of sickness absence was 24 October 2016 (two and a half months before her dismissal was confirmed), and she attended work throughout the dismissal and appeal processes.
- By the date of her dismissal, her GP report was over a year old and her OH report was based on a consultation from six months earlier (the referral being to assess her fitness to work).
- At the time of dismissal, she had a new central line, was under the care of a new medical team and was optimistic about the future.
The case was not about dismissing an employee on long-term sickness absence but dismissing a working employee because of the risk that she would have further periods of sickness absence in the future. The EAT concluded that the tribunal had impermissibly relied on employer medical evidence that post-dated the dismissal, which it had allowed to be introduced to fill the evidential “gap” and was irrelevant to the liability hearing. Regarding the discrimination arising from disability claim, Mrs Brightman’s absence record was the “something arising“. Her employer’s legitimate aim seemingly concerned the “unpredictable nature” of her absence and the need for other employees to provide cover. However, the tribunal erred by not adequately engaging with her arguments on justification (notably, in circumstances where her employer had been sustaining her absence levels for years). Employers must tread carefully before dismissing, even where an employee has had multiple periods of prolonged absence. Medical evidence relied on should be current, and the employee’s condition and prognosis at the time of dismissal considered.
Ethnic Pay Gap: CBI, TUC and ECHR sign letter calling for mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting
The Guardian reports that in a letter addressed to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have called for a clear timetable for the introduction of mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting. Citing the potential of data collection to solve racial inequality in the workplace, the signatories argue that mandatory reporting would highlight pay disparities and the lack of minority representation in senior positions with the hope that this would push employers towards action.
A government spokesperson indicated that the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities were still being considered and that the government would respond in due course. The Commission’s report did not recommend mandatory reporting.
Data Protection: European Commission adopts UK adequacy decisions
On 28 June 2021, the European Commission adopted the two UK adequacy decisions under the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) and the Law Enforcement Directive. This means that personal data can now flow freely from the EU to the UK as the UK offers an equivalent level of protection to personal data as under EU law. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has updated its guidance to confirm the decisions.
The decisions include sunset clauses that limit the decisions to four years, after which they will be reviewed.
The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has welcomed the decisions as a positive result for UK businesses and organisations and a testament to the strength of the UK’s data protection regime, noting that “adequacy is the best outcome as it means organisations can carry on with data protection as usual“.
Flexible Working: CIPD warns there is a risk of developing a ‘two-tier’ workforce over access to flexible working
Website, People Management, has reported on a league table prepared by the CIPD over access to flexible working using analysis by the HR body of the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey data. It reports that “the UK is at risk of becoming a two-tier workforce when it comes to who has access to flexibility with some regions of the country already becoming flexible ‘notspots’”, because some areas of the country have much better access to flexible working than others.
Flexibility was measured by looking at 1) where employees were permitted to work, 2) how informally flexible working policies were operated, including how start and end times were determined and 3) whether employees were able to take leave on short notice.
It turns out employees in the south-east of England have the best access to flexible working options, followed by the east of England and Northern Ireland, which the CIPD states reflects the predominance of certain sectors in different parts of the country, as well as areas with a higher concentration of higher-skilled and higher-paid jobs, which are concentrated in London and the south east.
Low Pay: In-work Progression Commission report on removing barriers faced by those on low pay
On 12 October 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched a call for evidence seeking views on challenges to progression in low-pay sectors, benefits of progression to employers and localities, and examples of good practice across the country. On 1 July 2021, the DWP published the In-Work Progression Commission’s report ‘Supporting progression out of low pay: a call to action’. The report notes that people in low-pay sectors find it very hard to progress to, and stay in, higher earning work. The reasons for this include a lack of skills, logistical challenges, such as a lack of suitable transport or childcare arrangements, as well as confidence and motivational barriers. It recommends that employers play their role in minimising and removing these barriers and in establishing a culture of lifelong learning to support their workforces. Developing skills and an understanding of the value of continual learning is essential to help people in low pay sustainably progress in work.
Employers should adopt the “5-point progression checklist“:
- an individualised progression and learning plan,
- shadowing and work experience, and
- supporting professional development.
They should also develop transparent progression pathways to ensure that entry-level jobs are a stepping-stone. An appropriate senior leader should be responsible for embedding support for progression into management practice. Employers should know about the transport and childcare options available to their staff and use this to inform business practice.
The report recommends that the government works with employers to consider how employers can be supported to accurately monitor individual progression over time, increasing transparency around in-work progression, with particular focus on those in the lowest-skilled roles. This could include developing an appropriate metric to track individual progression and looking at whether, in the longer term, pay reporting data should be part of annual company reports. The report recommends that care workers in England should be registered under a central body (as in the Devolved Administrations) which can manage and certify their registration, training and ongoing professional and skills development.
COVID-19: Treasury direction extending Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to 30 September 2021
On 6 July 2021, HM Treasury issued a further Treasury direction under sections 71 and 76 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, modifying and extending the terms of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to cover the period beginning on 1 May 2021 and ending on 30 September 2021. In particular, the Treasury direction provides for claims for the fifth SEISS grant (SEISS 5) to be submitted on or before 30 September 2021 in respect of that period. A claim cannot be amended after 30 September 2021. Applications for SEISS 5 will open from late July 2021.
The amount of the grant will be determined by a turnover test. Individuals whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more will receive 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500. However, individuals whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will receive a 30% grant, capped at £2,850.
ACAS: New guidance published on hybrid working
On 13 July 2021, ACAS published new guidance on hybrid working to help employers consider whether it could be an option for their workplace and how to fairly introduce it. ACAS has also published the results of a survey showing that over half of employers expect an increase in employee requests for flexible working. The advice includes tips for employers on how to:
- Consult with staff on the practical considerations regarding introducing hybrid working.
- Support and manage staff who are hybrid working and ensure all hybrid workers are treated fairly.
- Create a hybrid working policy.
- Handle hybrid working requests from staff.
It advises employers to consider whether technology could assist hybrid working, and issues such as health and safety, data privacy, cybersecurity, onboarding new joiners, and how teams will communicate remotely.
The guidance was developed after consultation with the government’s Flexible Working Taskforce which previously recommended that flexible working should be the default position for all workers.
Flexible Working: SMF survey reveals that 80% of workers would be against a four-day working week in exchange for lower pay
Personnel Today reports that a briefing paper published by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) records that 80% of workers surveyed would not be in favour of a four-day working week, if it meant that they earned less. While workers in banking (14%), energy & water (13%), manufacturing (13%), transport & communication (13%), and construction (12%) were most likely to say they wanted to work less, those working in the hospitality (14%), other services (12%), and public administration sectors (8%) were most likely to say they wanted to work more hours.
The survey also found that the workers who stood to benefit most from a four-day week were more likely to be higher earners, those in higher occupational classes, and men.
The introduction of a four-day working week is one of the proposals currently being considered by the government’s flexible working taskforce following a call from cross-party MPs.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brexit and data protection – an ongoing saga.
Many businesses who either transfer personal data from the UK to the EU, or in the other direction, have been concerned that the post-Brexit data protection landscape is unclear or more complex than before. The particular concern has been than doing business across borders would require extra steps or additional contracts to be entered into.
When the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020, the UK became a “third country” for GDPR purposes, meaning that transfers of personal data from the EU to the UK would be treated as transfers out of the EU. Those transferring data from inside the EU to the UK would have an obligation to ensure that adequate protections for data subjects were in place before a transfer could be made. This means that transfers or personal data into the UK would require additional mechanisms to protect individuals, such as “standard contractual clauses”, with which business in the UK would only be familiar if they were previously transferring personal data to non-EU countries.
However, the trade and co-operation agreement of 24 December 2020 includes an interim provision dealing with personal data transfer from the EU to the UK. This bridging mechanism provides that during the interim period, the UK will not be deemed a third country, and personal data transfers from the EU to the UK can continue without additional safeguards. The interim period lasts for four months, but is automatically extended for another two months unless either the EU or the UK objects to an extension.
GDPR has been adopted wholesale into UK law in the Data Protection Act 2018, which means that data transfers from the UK to the EU can continue seamlessly, as long as the EU has been given a finding of adequacy by the UK authorities – the UK has already made that decision, so for the time being, and unless the UK position changes in the future, data transfers out of the UK into the EU are dealt with as before.
In the short term, therefore, for most purposes it is business as usual for data transfers in both directions between the UK and the EU. However, this only applies until the end of the interim period referred to above, unless the EU Commission makes a finding of adequacy in respect of the UK’s data protection environment.
Regarding the longer term picture, on 19 February 2021, the European Commission made a draft finding of adequacy in respect of the UK. The Commission issued a press release, stating that it had considered UK law and practice and had concluded that the UK provides an “essentially equivalent” level of protection to that available in the EU.
The finding of adequacy is not yet binding, as it must be approved by the European Data Protection Board and ratified by EU member states. If the finding is adopted, it will last for a period of four years and will be subject to ongoing review of the UK’s continuing data protection environment.
It cannot be guaranteed that the European Data Protection Board and member states will approve the finding of adequacy, and they may ask for additional safeguards in the UK (particularly around the access to personal data by public authorities, such as law enforcement agencies), but the draft findings are a step in the right direction which, if ratified, will ensure that data can continue to flow smoothly between the UK and EU.
If you have any questions and/or would like advice on any Commercial Law matter, please speak to Ben Habershon at: email@example.com or to your usual Dixcart contact.