Employment Law Case Update – October 2022
A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published during October, which includes a look at how to carry out redundancy consultations, share transfer plans which need to transfer under TUPE, a consideration of how to carry out disciplinary action cases to avoid the appearance of bias, and an update on the latest drivers to pursue workers benefits claims.
- Redundancy: Consultation not meaningful if it takes place after decision to apply selection criterion that inevitably leads to a pool of one
- TUPE: Can the benefit of share incentive plans transfer under TUPE?
- Trade Unions: Appearance of bias in disciplinary action
- Workers: Bolt drivers pursue worker benefits claim
Redundancy: Consultation not meaningful if it takes place after decision to apply selection criterion that inevitably leads to a pool of one
In Mogane v Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust  EAT 139, the EAT has held that a tribunal erred in finding the redundancy dismissal of a nurse fair, where the sole selection criterion used was that her fixed-term contract ended before that of her colleague, putting her in a selection pool of one, where no consultation had taken place prior to that decision. Ms Mogane and another nurse in a similar role were employed on a series of fixed-term contracts. Ms Mogane was invited to a meeting at which she was told about the financial difficulties the Trust was facing. Shortly after this, a decision was taken that Ms Mogane should be dismissed for redundancy as her fixed-term contract expired first. A redundancy consultation process began, which included consultation regarding the possibility of alternative employment, although this was not possible and she was dismissed.
The EAT noted that, as established in Williams v Compair Maxam  ICR 156 and Polkey v AE Dayton Services Ltd  IRLR 503, consultation is a fundamental aspect of a fair redundancy procedure. This applies equally to individual as well as collective redundancy situations. In order that consultation is genuine and meaningful, consultation must take place at a formative stage when an employee can still potentially influence the outcome. Where the choice of selection criteria has the practical result that the selection for redundancy is made by that decision itself, consultation should take place before that decision is made. A failure to do so is not within the band of reasonable responses for the purposes of section 98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The implied term of trust and confidence requires that employers do not act arbitrarily towards employees in the methods of selection for redundancy. While a pool of one can be fair in appropriate circumstances, it should not be considered where there is more than one employee without prior consultation.
Here, the Trust’s decision to dismiss Ms Mogane as her contract was the first up for renewal immediately identified her as the person to be dismissed, before any meetings or consultation took place with her. The tribunal failed to explain why it was reasonable to make that decision without consultation. The selection of Ms Mogane was arbitrary, related solely to the date on which her fixed-term contract ended. Given that she was effectively chosen for dismissal before any consultation took place, the EAT substituted a finding that she was unfairly dismissed.
TUPE: Can the benefit of share incentive plans transfer under TUPE?
In Ponticelli UK Ltd v Gallagher  EAT 140 the EAT had to consider whether the benefit of a share incentive plan could transfer under TUPE, if it was not in the employee’s contract. Mr Gallagher’s contract of employment transferred to Ponticelli under TUPE, 2006 on 1 May 2020. Prior to the transfer, he had been a member of a Share Incentive Plan operated by the transferor (Total Exploration and Production UK Limited) which he had joined in August 2018 pursuant to an agreement amongst Mr Gallagher, the transferor and the plan trustees (a voluntary scheme, not under his contract). Mr Gallagher having refused to provide an equivalent scheme, Mr Gallagher brought proceedings before the Employment Tribunal in terms of sections 11 and 12 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). The Tribunal upheld his claims and found that he was entitled, after the transfer, to participate in a scheme of substantial equivalence to that operated by the transferor. Mr Gallagher contended that the obligations created when the respondent joined the transferor’s scheme did not arise either “under” the contract of employment or “in connection with” that contract. Accordingly, Regulation 4(2)(a) of TUPE did not apply. Mr Gallagher conceded that the obligations in question did not arise “under” the contract, but contended that they arose “in connection with” that contract. It was also argued that the Tribunal’s order was not competent. The tribunal found in favour of Mr Gallagher and Ponticelli appealed.
At appeal, the ETA held that even if the obligations created by the August 2018 Partnership Share Agreement did not arise “under” the contract of employment, they plainly arose “in connection with” that contract for the purposes of Regulation 4(2)(a) of TUPE, and the right to a plan of substantial equivalence transferred under TUPE. The order pronounced by the Tribunal was competent but should have referred to the statutory statement of particulars of employment rather than to “terms and conditions of employment” to which Mr Gallagher was entitled, which should have set out that right as ‘any other benefit’ (s.1(4)(da) ERA). Subject to that minor adjustment to paragraph 2 of the Tribunal’s Judgment, the appeal was refused.
Trade Unions: Appearance of bias in disciplinary action
In Simpson v Unite the Union  EAT 154 the EAT had to consider whether the Certification Officer had erred by failing to consider correctly and apply the relevant law to the question of whether the disciplinary process of a Trade Union gave rise to an appearance of bias by way of pre-determination. Mr Simpson was a trade union member who had been expelled. He had raised some concerns about other members but following an investigation it was found that there was no evidence to substantiate these claims, but there was evidence that Mr Simpson had made the claims vexatiously, resulting in his disciplinary action and subsequent expulsion. He applied to the Certification Officer for a declaration under s.108A Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 on the basis that the process adopted was in breach of natural justice, as it gave rise to an appearance of bias by way of pre-determination, seeking a declaration that he had been disciplined in breach of the Union’s rules.
The Certification Officer refused his application resulting in a further appeal, this time to the EAT. It held that the Certification Officer had erred by failing to consider and apply the relevant law when determining if the disciplinary process gave rise to an appearance of bias where the chairman of the disciplinary panel had also acted as the chairman of the committee which had commissioned and accepted a report into Mr Simpson’s own complaints of harassment, and then rejected the complaints and commissioned a further investigation into whether they were malicious or vexatious whilst suspending Mr Simpson.
The same person (the chairman) had also acted as the chairman of the committee which had accepted the recommendation that there be a disciplinary hearing and which had appointed him as chairman of the disciplinary panel. In addition, when Mr Simpson had written to him and requested that he not be on the disciplinary panel, he had not replied to the letter or shared it with the other members of the panel. The EAT therefore found in favour of the appellant that the Certification Officer had erred by failing to correctly consider whether the disciplinary process of the trade union had given rise to an appearance of bias.
Workers: Bolt drivers pursue worker benefits claim
According to the Guardian (6 October 2022) more than 1,600 UK drivers for Bolt, a ride-hailing app, claim they have been wrongly classified as self-employed contractors. The drivers are seeking compensation for missed holiday and minimum wage payments to which they would be entitled if deemed to be workers. Lawyers for the claimants have contacted ACAS in the first stage of lodging the claim. A driver from Bolt previously brought a test case to an employment tribunal after he was expelled from the platform.
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Employment News – Case Update May 2022
A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month largely centred around dismissal. We have a harassment case that looks at how employers should provide for breastfeeding mothers returning to work, and some interesting cases of dismissals showing that common sense ultimately steers the tribunals.
- Harassment: Tribunal finds school harassed teacher who was forced to express breast milk in ‘dirty’ toilets
- Unfair Dismissal & Disability Discrimination: Failing to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee does not render dismissal unfair
- Unfair Dismissal: It was not automatically unfair to dismiss an employee who refused to go to work because of concerns over COVID-19 risk to his vulnerable children
- Indirect Sex Discrimination & Constructive Unfair Dismissal: Shop assistant was unfairly dismissed after being made to work Saturdays despite childcare issues
Harassment: Tribunal finds school harassed teacher who was forced to express breast milk in ‘dirty’ toilets
In the case of Mellor v The MFG Academies Trust  ET/1802133/2021, the tribunal had to consider the effect of how a teacher had been treated in respect of expressing breastmilk while at school. Ms Mellor had been a teacher of Citizenship at Mirfield Free Grammar School. In July 2020, she returned to work from maternity leave and before returning to work, made a flexible working request and informed her employer she required a room in which to she would be able to express milk or possibly feed her baby during lunchtimes while at school. Having been told that due to COVID-19 restrictions, her partner was not allowed onto school premises to bring the baby to her to breastfeed, Ms Mellor again requested somewhere to express. Having had nowhere suitable she raised the matter with her line manager, as her breasts were becoming uncomfortable from being prevented from expressing the milk and she was afraid of developing mastitis again. Through a series of requests which were not followed up properly, Ms Mellor ended up expressing regularly at lunchtimes either in her car where she might be seen by students, or whilst sitting on the floor in the dirty toilets, and trying to eat her lunch at the same time.
Judge Miller found that Ms Mellor “genuinely and reasonably had no choice but to use the toilets or her car to express” and had made the school aware on numerous occasions but not only was no suitable room provided. “The alternative was that the claimant would experience an embarrassing leakage in the afternoon,” Judge Miller explained. “It is obvious that this is unacceptable.” Ms Mellor was also keen to avoid developing mastitis again and was under the impression this would be avoided by expressing during the day.
Judge Miller therefore found in favour of Ms Mellor, expressing the sentiment that the conduct did have the effect of creating a degrading or humiliating environment for the claimant on the basis that “a woman who has recently given birth should not be subjected to these circumstances solely because she has done so.” The judge also concluded that “As the claimant reasonably and genuinely felt compelled to act in a way that she did not want to, she was we find forced to do so”, therefore interpreting the meaning of ‘forcing’ to include leaving someone with no realistic choice but to take a particular course of action and must be read in conjunction with ‘unwanted’ – such as expressing milk in the toilets while eating lunch and /or in the claimant’s car with the risk of being seen by pupils and others.
The claim of harassment succeeded, but the claim of direct discrimination was dismissed as the failure to provide a suitable room was more due to administrative incompetence rather than on the basis of her sex, and in any event, the same detriment could not be relied upon to make out both claims. The claim of indirect discrimination failed because the provision, criterion or practice (PCP) must place women at a particular disadvantage compared to men. Given that expressing breastmilk is a sex specific practice in which biological men can have no interest this PCP cannot be meaningfully applied to both men and women and therefore there is no comparative disadvantage that can arise.
Unfair Dismissal & Disability Discrimination: Failing to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee does not render dismissal unfair
In Knightley v Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust  EAT 63 the EAT considered the question of if an employer dismisses a disabled employee, but fails to make a reasonable adjustment during that process, must that render the dismissal unfair?
At first instance, the Employment Tribunal found that the employer had failed to make a reasonable adjustment to its procedure when dismissing the employee on grounds of capability in that it had not allowed her an extension of time to lodge an appeal against her dismissal. It therefore upheld her claim under section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 (duty to make reasonable adjustments). However, it found that her dismissal was fair and proportionate, and therefore dismissed her claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination arising out of disability, contrary to section 15 of the Equality Act 2010.
The employee’s appeal was on the basis that the Tribunal’s finding, for the purposes of the duty to make reasonable adjustments, that the employee was unreasonably denied an opportunity to appeal against her dismissal ought to have led to her other claims succeeding and/or that the Tribunal had not sufficiently explained how her dismissal could be fair or proportionate given this finding and/or that the Tribunal had wrongly relied on its finding that the employee’s appeal would not have been successful in any event and had thereby committed the Polkey heresy. The ‘Polkey Deduction’ is a very well established principle that, if a dismissal is unfair on procedural grounds, the fact that the employee would have been dismissed in any event, even if a fairer procedure was followed, only impacts the remedy rather than the question of liability.
The EAT dismissed the appeal, noting that it was obvious that the legal tests involved in the three claims before the tribunal were different, and just because an employer might fail on one of the claims does not mean that the others will also fail. What matters to the tribunal is drawing conclusions under each test from the facts which the tribunal has found. The legal principles applicable to each claim should be separately applied to the findings of fact because the elements of each part of the Act are different. Here, the conclusion on the reasonable adjustment claim did not depend on or reflect, the merits of the case for dismissal or the dismissal itself or whether the appeal would have made any difference to the outcome.
Unfair Dismissal: It was not automatically unfair to dismiss an employee who refused to go to work because of concerns over COVID-19 risk to his vulnerable children
In Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting Ltd  EAT 69 the EAT considered the case of Mr Rodgers who had refused to go into work during the first national lockdown, despite his work remaining open, because he was concerned that if his children caught COVID-19 they would become very ill. As a result of this refusal, Mr Rodgers was dismissed. He claimed unfair dismissal on the basis that he had exercised his right not to return to work in order to protect himself from circumstances of danger, which he had reasonably believed to be a serious and imminent threat, and which he could not have been expected to avoid (section 100(1)(d) or (e) Employment Rights Act 1999).
However, the EAT found that the employment judge had accepted that the Coronavirus pandemic could, in principle, give rise to circumstances of danger that an employee could reasonably believe to be serious and imminent, but this case failed on the facts. The circumstances of the workplace (it was large and few people worked in it, he could generally maintain social distance at work, masks were available, the tribunal rejected the claimant’s contention that he was forced to go out on deliveries) combined with Mr Rodgers’ actions (he had remained at work from the date of the announcement of the lockdown on 24 March 2020 until he left at his normal time on 27 March 2020, he had not asked for a mask, he did not say that he would not be returning when he left on 27 March 2020, he drove his friend to hospital while he was meant to be self-isolating, he worked in a pub during the lockdown) did not support his argument that there were circumstances of danger which he believed were serious and imminent. Even if the tribunal had been wrong about this, it had been entitled to find that Mr Rodgers could have been expected to take reasonable steps to avoid such danger, such as wearing a mask, observing social distancing, and sanitising his hands. The appeal was dismissed.
Indirect Sex Discrimination & Constructive Unfair Dismissal: Shop assistant was unfairly dismissed after being made to work Saturdays despite childcare issues
The case of Keating v WH Smith Retail Holdings Ltd ET/2300631/2019 has recently been published, which relates to a single mother working at the large retail chain. Following a drop in sales and the reduction of Saturday staff, the manager instated a rota for Saturday working – where sales assistants would have to work 1 in every 4 Saturdays. Although Ms Keating’s contract stated she would work 20 hours a week, flexible to the needs of the business, and could be required to work up to eight hours extra per week where trading patterns required it, and further, she may be required to work Saturdays. Sundays or bank holidays. Ms Keating did not normally work weekends and explained she was unable to work Saturdays as she had no childcare for her eight year old daughter. The manager, Mr Cruikshank, told her she should arrange to swap with one of her colleagues. He also admitted to saying to Ms Keating that if he permitted her not to work the Saturday rota, everyone else would want the same. Otherwise he had not dealt with the issue nor discussed it further with her. On the first Saturday Ms Keating was rostered to work, she had to bring her daughter to work with her. She was then off sick for four weeks and resigned, giving four weeks’ notice.
Ms Keating claimed indirect sex discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal. Ms Keating was put at a disadvantage: as a woman, with a dependent child, as a single mother and who could not afford childcare and had no family or other network she could call upon. The Judge found that while there was a legitimate business aim to introduce the Saturday rota, there was ‘no consideration’ by Mr Cruikshank of any less discriminatory ways to carry out his legitimate aim (i.e. to meet weekend staffing needs). Ms Keating was found to have resigned in response to this breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, and no potentially fair reason was advanced by the employer. The Judge held both claims to be well founded and both claims succeeded.
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Employment News – Case Update March 2022
A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month including how to establish worker status, the use of PILON clauses, privacy regarding email at work and what test to use to determine detriment in victimisation cases.
- Worker Status: “Irreducible minimum of obligation” is not a prerequisite for establishing worker status
- Contract: No dismissal where employer invokes contractual PILON after employee’s resignation to bring forward termination date
- Privacy: Appeal dismissed against judgment that personal emails sent from business account were not private or confidential
- Victimisation: What test should be applied when determining if a Claimant has suffered a detriment under a victimisation claim?
Worker Status: “Irreducible minimum of obligation” is not a prerequisite for establishing worker status
In, Nursing and Midwifery Council v Somerville  EWCA Civ 229, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that an “irreducible minimum of obligation” is not needed to establish worker status under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998). Mr Somerville, a panel member chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Fitness to Practice Committee, worked under an overarching contract. This contract did not oblige the Nursing and Midwifery Council (the Council) to offer hearing dates to him, and he was under no obligation to accept any dates offered to him. Applying Uber BV and others v Aslam and others  UKSC 5, the court found that the fact that the overarching contract did not impose an obligation to work did not preclude a finding that he was a worker when he was actually working.
In addition, the fact that Mr Somerville could withdraw from an individual agreement to attend a hearing even after he had accepted a particular date did not change the Court of Appeal’s view. He entered into an individual contract for an individual assignment which existed until terminated and had to be read alongside the overarching contract. If an individual contract was not terminated and he chaired a hearing, he would, in the language of section 2(1)(b) of the WTR 1998, have worked under a contract personally to perform services. There is no indication that there must be a distinct, super-added obligation to provide services independent from the provision of the services on a particular occasion. When deciding whether a specific agreement to provide services on a particular occasion amounted to a worker’s contract, the fact that the parties were not obliged to offer, or accept, any future work was irrelevant.
The Court of Appeal’s decision confirms what was previously understood to be the position, that an “irreducible minimum of obligation” is not an essential requirement for worker status. The analysis of the Uber Supreme Court decision also adds to the often-fraught discussion of what it means to be a worker. That said, the Court of Appeal’s decision is clear: where an individual is, in fact, working or providing services personally under a contract, a finding of worker status can be made even where no overarching contract imposing an obligation to provide and accept work exists.
Contract: No dismissal where employer invokes contractual PILON after employee’s resignation to bring forward termination date
In Fentem v Outform EMEA Ltd  EAT 36, the EAT has held that is bound by the decision in Marshall (Cambridge) v Hamblin  ICR 362. Accordingly, where an employer invokes a clause in an employee’s contract enabling it, following the employee’s resignation, to terminate their employment immediately by making a prescribed payment calculated by reference to the unexpired period of the employee’s notice, there is no dismissal under section 95(1)(a) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Despite reaching this conclusion, the EAT expressed misgivings about the decision in Marshall. It was strongly inclined to view Marshall as wrong and could see nothing in the reasoning that supported the conclusion that there was no dismissal in that case.
However, the EAT could only depart from its own decisions in the narrow circumstances set out in British Gas Trading v Lock  ICR 503. These include where the earlier decision was not merely wrong, but manifestly wrong. It was the outcome or proposition of law for which the decision stood that had to be the focus of consideration. If there is an argument that can reasonably be advanced in defence of the outcome that is itself not manifestly wrong, then the legal outcome could not be said to be manifestly wrong.
In this case, the employer relied on authorities concerning a scenario in which an employee’s termination date was brought forward with their agreement following their dismissal. The employee argued that these were not relevant because he had not agreed to his termination date being brought forward. The EAT accepted that these authorities may not inform the approach to the issue, but it could not say that they obviously would not. Further, it might be arguable that a contractual provision could have the legal effect that, following a resignation, the employer could cause the employment to end sooner than the date given by the employee, even without the employee’s agreement, by making a contractually-prescribed payment by reference to the unexpired notice period, in a way that only alters how and when the resignation takes effect.
Since these points could not be said to be obviously unarguable, the decision in Marshall could not be said to be manifestly wrong. Therefore, the EAT could not depart from it.
Privacy: Appeal dismissed against judgment that personal emails sent from business account were not private or confidential
In Brake and another v Guy and others  EWCA Civ 235, the Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal in unsuccessful proceedings for misuse of private information and breach of confidence which arose in relation to a former employee’s personal emails that were sent from a business email account. The email account was used to receive enquiries about the employer’s services.
Baker LJ’s leading judgment emphasised that the success of privacy and confidentiality claims turned on the specific facts, and considered that it had been open to the judge at first instance, HHJ Paul Matthews, to find as he did. In particular, he said that it was telling that the former employee (who was the claimant in the proceedings) had shared access to the email account with two colleagues, and that her employer had set up personal accounts in the names of each of the employees at the same time as it created the business account. Baker LJ also agreed with the first instance judge that, had there been a reasonable expectation of privacy or circumstances of confidence, disclosure of the emails by the defendants for the purpose of obtaining professional advice would not have breached privacy or confidence and, even if it had, damages would have been limited.
The only point of disagreement with the earlier judgments related to HHJ Paul Matthews’ decision to split out the issue of the “iniquity defence” (that is, the public interest defence, which the judge had held was available in relation to privacy and breach of confidence claims where the defendant accessed the information unlawfully), leaving it until after his trial of other matters. Baker LJ considered that any fraudulent conduct on the part of the claimant was likely to be relevant to whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy or duty of confidence and, if there was, whether they had been breached. He concluded, however, that this had not been determinative in the present case.
This judgment provides some guidance on ensuring that an employer will have full access to emails sent via a business account. In particular, it may be advisable to create individual email accounts for each employee who operates from the central business email address and to require them to limit private emails to the account set up in their name.
Victimisation: What test should be applied when determining if a Claimant has suffered a detriment under a victimisation claim?
In Warburton v The Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police  EAT 42, the EAT was had to consider whether the tribunal had asked itself the correct question when deciding whether or not the claimant had suffered a detriment, and if not, which was the correct test to use.
The claimant had applied to be a police officer with the Northamptonshire Police force. In his application email he referred to what was accepted as being a protected act, namely, proceedings he was bringing in another employment tribunal against another police force (Hertfordshire Constabulary) alleging unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability. He had made an application to join that force, which resulted in an offer which was subsequently withdrawn. The claimant was later told by the respondent that his application form had not been accepted.
The claimant pursued a claim for victimisation. The respondent’s argument for why the claimant’s application had not been successful was not due to the protected act but owing to the failure of another force (Avon and Somerset Constabulary) to provide information to allow the vetting procedure to proceed. The tribunal found in favour of the respondent and the claimant appealed.
The appeal was predicated on the basis that the employment tribunal had erred in law by misstating the test for victimisation, and the four other claims flowed from this.
The EAT held that the tribunal had not asked itself the correct question when deciding that the claimant had suffered no detriment. The key test is from the House of Lords in Shamoon v Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary ICR 337: “Is the treatment of such a kind that a reasonable worker would or might take the view that in all the circumstances it was to his detriment?” The EAT concluded that detriment is to be interpreted widely in this context and it is what a reasonable worker might think, not just the view of a tribunal, to satisfy the test. Therefore, it was not particularly difficult to establish a detriment for these purposes and but the EAT also found that the tribunal had also not applied the correct legal test to the causation or “reason why” question. The appeal was allowed and the victimisation claim was remitted for rehearing.
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Employment Law Case Review – February 2022
A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month including a Covid-19 dismissal, worker status, business owner liability, fire and rehire injunction and misclassified worker’s right to holiday pay.
- COVID-19: Dismissal for refusing to be vaccinated was fair
- Worker Status: London cabbie also working through Mytaxi app was not a worker of the app-operator
- Liability: Dental practice owner liable for alleged negligence of self-employed dentists
- Contracts: High Court grants in junction to stop Tesco firing and rehiring employees
- Holiday Pay: Misclassified worker’s right to holiday pay for whole period of employment crystallised on termination
COVID-19: Dismissal for refusing to be vaccinated was fair
In Allette v Scarsdale Grange Nursing Home Ltd ET/1803699/2021 an employment tribunal has held that the summary dismissal of a care assistant employed in a nursing home for unreasonably refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was fair.
In the context of the state of the pandemic in January 2021, a small nursing home’s decision to make vaccination mandatory for staff who were providing close personal care to vulnerable residents was a reasonable management instruction. The care assistant’s refusal to be vaccinated due to concerns about the safety of the vaccine was not reasonable in circumstances where there had been a very recent outbreak and deaths of residents at the nursing home, the pandemic was growing nationally and there was widespread publicity and advice about vaccine safety.
An employer’s instruction that an employee must be vaccinated, unless they have a reasonable excuse, interferes with the employee’s physical integrity in a manner capable of engaging Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The employer’s aims, of protecting the health and safety of the residents, staff and visitors to the care home during the pandemic and protecting itself against the increased likelihood of claims due to the withdrawal of insurance cover if staff members were unvaccinated, were legitimate.
An unvaccinated staff member would pose a significant and unjustified interference with the Article 8 rights of the residents and the other staff and visitors to the home, such that the requirement for the care assistant to be vaccinated and the dismissal for unreasonably refusing vaccination was justified. Less draconian means could not have been used.
It was within the range of reasonable responses for the employer to conclude that the refusal was due to scepticism of the vaccine and not due to religious beliefs, as had been raised at the disciplinary hearing. In the context of the recent outbreak and deaths at the nursing home, and the urgency with which measures to protect the vulnerable residents needed to be put in place, refusing to comply with the management instruction to be vaccinated amounted to gross misconduct and the dismissal was neither unfair nor wrongful.
Worker Status: London cabbie also working through Mytaxi app was not a worker of the app-operator
In Johnson v Transopco UK Ltd  EAT 6, the EAT has upheld an employment tribunal’s decision that a taxi driver working through an app was not a worker, under section 230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Mr Johnson worked as a self-employed London black-cab driver. He also registered with Mytaxi, an app operated by Transopco UK Ltd (TUK). During one year, he completed 282 trips via the app at a total value of £4,560.48. In the same period, he earned £30,472.45 as a self-employed driver. Employment tribunal complaints brought against TUK failed because the tribunal found Mr Johnson was not TUK’s worker. The tribunal observed that Mr Johnson could provide his services as infrequently or as often as he wanted, could dictate the timing of those services and was not subject to control by TUK. It also took into account the small proportion of work done through the app.
The EAT held that the tribunal was entitled to analyse the split of time between income earned as a self-employed cab driver and income earned via the Mytaxi app, when considering whether Mr Johnson’s work for TUK formed part of his own business, and as pointing towards its conclusion that this was not a dependent work relationship. It was not the case that the tribunal’s analysis amounted to a “numbers game” or introduced a minimum hours threshold for worker status.
The tribunal was entitled to take the view that the essence of Mr Johnson’s business was picking up passengers and driving them to where they wanted to go, however they were obtained. This was so having regard also to the tribunal’s findings on the simultaneous nature of the activities, subordination, dependency, control and integration.
The fact that some incentives and risk-sharing were offered by TUK to reflect the risks associated with using its platform (such as the risk of fraud or cancelled jobs), in order to enhance its financial attractiveness as an option, this did not point inevitably to worker status and the tribunal did not err in holding otherwise. The tribunal’s conclusions were soundly reasoned. It followed that although the driver had an obligation of personal service, the tribunal had correctly concluded that TUK was a client or customer of Mr Johnson’s taxi-driving business.
Liability: Dental practice owner liable for alleged negligence of self-employed dentists
In Hughes v Rattan  EWCA Civ 107, the Court of Appeal has held, as a preliminary issue, that a dental practice owner owed a patient a non-delegable duty of care in respect of the treatment she received from self-employed dentists who worked at the practice.
Non-delegable duties put primary liability on a person to avoid harm, to take reasonable care to avoid harm or to see that care is taken by others, rather than imposing secondary liability for the wrongdoing of another person, as with vicarious liability. While the two are conceptually distinct from each other, they may achieve a similar outcome and liability can arise as a result of negligence of an independent contractor, but with a non-delegable duty there is no defence to show that performance was delegated to a person reasonably believed to be competent.
Ms Hughes was, in law, a patient of the practice and the dental practice owner, Dr Rattan, was named as the treatment provider in the treatment plans she had signed. Patients were described as “patients of the practice” in the agreements between the practice owner and the self-employed dentists, and the dentists were subject to stringent restrictive covenants prohibiting them from treating those patients outside the dental practice.
The factors set out in the leading case, Woodland v Essex County Council  UKSC 66, were satisfied:
1. A “patient” included anyone receiving treatment from a dentist; they did not need to be especially vulnerable to qualify.
2. An antecedent relationship between the patient and the dental practice owner was established at the latest on each occasion when the patient signed the relevant treatment plan, which placed her in the practice owner’s actual care.
3. The patient had no control over whether the dental practice owner chose to perform his obligations personally or through employees or third parties.
Although the court was not required to decide whether the dental practice owner was also vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of the self-employed dentists, it expressed a view that he would not be vicariously liable because the test in Barclays Bank Plc v Various Claimants  UKSC 13 was not met.
Contracts: High Court grants in junction to stop Tesco firing and rehiring employees
In USDAW and others v Tesco Stores Ltd  EWHC 201 (QB), the High Court has granted an injunction to restrain Tesco from terminating and re-engaging a group of warehouse operatives in order to remove a contractual entitlement to enhanced pay, which had been incorporated as a result of collective bargaining. The entitlement had been negotiated as a retention incentive at a time when Tesco was reorganising its distribution centres, which involved some major relocations. A collective agreement reached in 2010 stated that the enhanced pay would be a “permanent feature” of each affected employee’s contractual entitlement, and could only be changed through mutual consent, or on promotion to a new role.
In these unusual circumstances, the court granted declaratory relief, setting out the precise contractual term relating to enhanced pay that was incorporated into the contracts of employment, and held that it was appropriate to imply a term preventing Tesco from exercising its right to terminate on notice for the purpose of removing or diminishing the right of each employee to receive the enhanced pay. The court noted that Tesco’s intention to terminate and re-engage on inferior terms would operate to remove a significant proportion of the remuneration currently payable to the affected employees, causing significant injury to their legal rights. Since damages would not have provided an adequate remedy, the court granted an injunction to restrain dismissal in breach of the implied term.
Holiday Pay: Misclassified worker’s right to holiday pay for whole period of employment crystallised on termination
In Smith v Pimlico Plumbers Ltd  EWCA Civ 70, the Court of Appeal has held that a worker who took unpaid leave, having been wrongly told that he was an independent contractor with no right to paid leave, could bring a claim in respect of his entire accrued holiday entitlement under Article 7(1) of the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC), whether taken or untaken, going back to the start of his contract.
Following the principle in King v Sash Window Workshop Ltd (Case C-214/16), annual leave under the Directive is a “single composite right” to paid leave, rather than a right to leave and a separate right to payment for that leave. As the employer had refused to grant that right, the worker’s full leave entitlement under the Directive accumulated from year to year without limitation, and his right to claim a payment in lieu of that entitlement crystallised on termination of his contract. He did not need to rely on establishing a “series of deductions” under section 23(3) of the ERA 1996, and the time limit for bringing the claim ran from the date of termination, rather than the date of the last non-payment of holiday pay. It was also not necessary for the worker to specify whether the leave in question was untaken or taken but unpaid.
Although the court did not strictly need to deal with this point, it also expressed a “strong provisional view” that the EAT’s decision in Bear Scotland Ltd v Fulton  ICR 221, that a series of deductions is broken by a gap of three months or more between deductions, was wrong.
A few days later the Court of Appeal added a postscript and an appendix.
The earlier judgment of the EAT had included suggested wording to be read into the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) (WTR 1998) in order to reflect holiday pay case law under the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC), including King v Sash Window Workshop and another (C-214/16) EU:C:2017:914. In light of the Court of Appeal’s decision that the EAT had wrongly interpreted King, it invited further submissions from the parties as to the appropriate course to adopt.
Although the court acknowledged that it had “no power to draft regulations” it suggested a form of words that would best reflect EU law, as an appendix to its earlier judgment. It includes the following additional wording to be read into the WTR 1998 at regulation 13(16):
“Where in any leave year an employer (i) fails to recognise a worker’s right to paid annual leave and (ii) cannot show that it provides a facility for the taking of such leave, the worker shall be entitled to carry forward any leave which is taken but unpaid, and/or which is not taken, into subsequent leave years.”
The case has important implications for the way time limits work in holiday pay claims, particularly for workers who have been misclassified as self-employed and therefore denied any paid holiday rights. Such workers may now be able to claim holiday pay back to the start of their employment, without having to rely on the “series of deductions” rules which would otherwise limit the value of historical claims.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment Law Newsletter – June 2021
- Contracts: Prior period of illegal performance did not prevent subsequent enforcement of contract
- Discrimination: Gender critical belief was a “philosophical belief” under the Equality Act 2020
- Discrimination: Absence of interim relief remedy for discrimination cases not incompatible with ECHR
- Vicarious Liability: Both original employer and company to whom employees loaned held vicariously liable for traders’ tortious acts
- Fiduciary Duties: No-conflict rule and fully informed consent
- COVID-19: Solicitor unfairly dismissed for refusing to agree changes to employment contract during pandemic
- COVID-19: Dismissal of employee who expressed concerns about commuting and attending the office during lockdown and asked to be furloughed was not automatically unfair
- COVID-19: Dismissal automatically unfair for raising concerns about lack of COVID-secure workplace measures
- Worker Status: Employment tribunal to decide whether postmasters are workers
- COVID-19: Employers join pledge to promote vaccine uptake amongst staff
- Gender Inequality: Government publishes response to Women and Equalities Committee report on gendered economic impact of COVID-19
- Flexible Working: Government to commence consultation on flexible working while National Rail catches up with the times
- Parental Leave: Maternity Action publishes proposals to reform shared parental leave and John Lewis leads the way
- Diversity: Report suggests firms with targeted support for ethnic minority workers have higher revenues
- Legislation: Skills and Post-16 Education Bill introduced in Parliament
- Employment Rights: Government publishes response to consultation on single enforcement body
- ACAS Update: In response to ACAS report, government confirms no current intention to ban “fire and rehire” practices
Contracts: Prior period of illegal performance did not prevent subsequent enforcement of contract
In Robinson v His Highness Sheikh Khalid Bin Saqr Al Qasimi  EWCA Civ 862, the Court of Appeal has restated the correct approach for common law illegality as a defence to claims for unfair dismissal. This case arose out of a dispute as to who was responsible for paying tax and national insurance contributions. For seven years Ms Robinson had received an income from the Sheikh and neither party had paid the necessary taxes due. From 2014, the money was paid less deductions equal to what was due if Ms Robinson were self-employed but the parties continued to dispute the preceding seven years. This continued until 2017 when the Sheikh dismissed Ms Robinson for failing to account for her taxes (an illegal act). She brought claims for automatic unfair dismissal for making a protected disclosure, unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal.
The law is that parties to an employment contract that is affected by illegality may be prevented from bringing claims in an employment tribunal or elsewhere. The effect of illegality on an employment contract will depend on the way in which the illegality arises. Where an employment contract is lawful when made but is illegally performed, the contract’s enforceability will depend on the knowledge and participation of the parties; this is referred to as “common law illegality”. “Statutory illegality” is where the employment contract has been expressly or impliedly prohibited by statute; it is void and unenforceable in line with the statutory prohibition, and the parties’ knowledge and intentions are not relevant.
The Court of Appeal relied upon the Supreme Court’s judgment in Patel v Mirza  UKSC 42, where it held that tribunals should have regard to the three considerations set out below and whether there was a sufficient causal link between the illegal conduct and the claim being made to the tribunal. The Supreme Court held that, to determine if the defence of illegality will succeed, a court should consider the policy factors involved and the nature and circumstances of the illegality:
- The underlying purpose of the prohibition which had been breached and whether the purpose would be enhanced by denial of the claim.
- Any other relevant public policy on which the denial of the claim may have an impact.
- Whether denial of the claim would be a proportionate response to the illegality.
The mere fact that one of the parties to the contract had performed it illegally was not a sufficient test for the doctrine of illegality to apply.
Discrimination: Gender critical belief was a “philosophical belief” under the Equality Act 2020
In Forstater v CGD Europe and others  UKEAT/0105/20, the EAT has overturned an employment tribunal’s decision that a gender critical belief (including a belief that sex is immutable and should not be conflated with gender identity, and that trans women are men) was not a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. The tribunal had held that the claimant’s belief failed the fifth criterion in Grainger v Nicholson  IRLR 4 (EAT) that the belief must be “worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others“. In the EAT’s view, taking account of the European Convention on Human Rights, a belief would have to be akin to Nazism or totalitarianism, or espouse violence and hatred in the gravest of forms, to fall foul of that part of the test. It is only in extreme cases involving the “gravest violation of other Convention rights” that a belief would fail to qualify for protection at all. The claimant’s gender critical beliefs, which were widely shared in society and did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons, clearly did not fall into that category.
The EAT also held that the tribunal had failed to follow the principle that courts and tribunals should not inquire into the validity of a belief and must remain neutral as between competing beliefs. Furthermore, the tribunal had been wrong to rely on the “absolutist” nature of the claimant’s belief. The firmness with which a belief is held (even if others might think it irrational or offensive) is not a reason to deny protection.
This appeal was only about the preliminary issue of whether the claimant’s belief qualified for protection. The merits of the claim (including the question of whether her treatment amounted to unlawful discrimination) remain to be determined. Mr Justice Choudhury was at pains to point out that the judgment was not to be taken as expressing any view as to the merits of the transgender debate. Nor did the judgment mean that trans individuals have no protection from discrimination or harassment, which may include misgendering.
Discrimination: Absence of interim relief remedy for discrimination cases not incompatible with ECHR
In Steer v Stormsure Ltd  EWCA Civ 887, the Court of Appeal has dismissed a claim that the lack of interim relief remedy for discrimination cases is incompatible with the right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) read with Article 14 of the ECHR (which prohibits discrimination). The court held that the claimant did not have the necessary status for protection under Article 14. The fact that interim relief is available to a dismissed whistleblower but not to a discrimination claimant who has been dismissed does not constitute discrimination on the ground of sex, and the status of being a litigant in a particular type of case is not a protected status. Even if that was not the case, the court found that the available remedies for discrimination cases, taken as a whole, are not any less favourable than those available to a dismissed whistleblower. Even if they were less favourable, the difference in treatment as regards the availability of interim relief is objectively justified.
Vicarious Liability: Both original employer and company to whom employees loaned held vicariously liable for traders’ tortious acts
In Natwest Markets Plc and another v Bilta (UK) Ltd and others  EWCA Civ 680, the Court of Appeal has held that, due to a 19 month delay in the giving of judgment at first instance, it could not be satisfied that the trial judge had reached the right conclusions. It allowed an appeal against the decision of Justice Snowden and ordered a re-trial. In this case, the claimants alleged that the defendants were liable for dishonestly assisting a large VAT fraud relating to the sale of carbon credits.
The second defendant (formerly RBS SEEL) also brought a discrete ground of appeal, arguing that the judge was wrong to find that it was vicariously liable for the wrongdoing of the individual traders, alongside the first defendant (formerly RBS). The traders were originally employed by RBS SEEL but had been loaned to RBS. The Court of Appeal dismissed this ground of appeal, on the basis that the traders were so much a part of the work, business and organisation of both companies that it was just to make both employers answer for their tortious acts and omissions in the course of their employment.
Regarding the test for “blind eye knowledge“, the Court of Appeal agreed, obiter, that it was not enough that the defendant merely suspected something to be the case, or that he negligently refrained from making further inquiries.
The re-trial is no surprise here, given the general rule that judgments should be delivered within three months of the hearing. More significant is the decision about vicarious liability, rejecting the bold argument that the shift to the organisation to whom the employee was loaned was so complete that the original employer should have no liability at all.
Fiduciary Duties: No-conflict rule and fully informed consent
In Reader v SPIE Ltd & another  EWHC 1221, the High Court has considered whether an employee director of a target company had breached his fiduciary duty when negotiating an enhanced bonus for a transferring employee when moving him onto the buyer’s standard employment terms.
G had sold his company, G&L, to S. Under the Share Purchase Agreement, G would be liable if a key employee, R, did not agree to S Group’s employment terms, including its less favourable bonus scheme. R moved onto S Group’s standard terms as part of a contract negotiated by G on behalf of G&L. A side letter enhanced R’s bonus for the relevant financial year. G&L did not pay the enhancement and R started proceedings in the County Court. S claimed that G would be liable to it in respect of any award in R’s favour. S settled R’s claim, but proceedings continued between S and G. Judgment was entered for S on the basis that, as part of his fiduciary duty not to act in a position of conflict of interest, G should have done more to draw the enhanced bonus to the attention of Y, the director of G&L making the decision. G appealed.
The High Court allowed G’s appeal holding, among other things, that:
- It is an inflexible rule of equity that a fiduciary must not act in a position where his interest and duty conflict, or may possibly, conflict. There are few exceptions, but one is that there can be no breach where there is fully informed consent. The burden of proving informed consent is on the fiduciary.
- The judge had erred in holding that, as part of the no-conflict<a id=”contract”></a>duty, G was obliged to explicitly invite Y’s attention to the enhanced bonus provision. No such obligation existed. Having decided that the enhanced bonus term was plainly disclosed by G, the correct conclusion was that there was no breach.
- The only thing Y needed to know from G, to make a fully informed decision, was the set of terms proposed for R (including the enhanced bonus). Y had been aware of the bonus due to R under his previous employment terms, and of G’s personal interest in getting R to accept the new terms. By authorising G to sign the documents on behalf of G&L, Y must be taken to have understood what they meant.
COVID-19: Solicitor unfairly dismissed for refusing to agree changes to employment contract during pandemic
In Khatun v Winn Solicitors Ltd ET/2501492/2020 the employment tribunal has found that a solicitor was unfairly dismissed for refusing to agree to changes to her employment contract as part of the firm’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm had required all staff to agree to a variation giving it the freedom to place them on furlough or to unilaterally reduce their pay and hours to 80%, potentially for up to nine months. The claimant, who was not among the employees earmarked for immediate furlough, was the only one to refuse. She told the firm that, if it became necessary to furlough her or to reduce her hours at some point in the future, she would consider a variation then.
The tribunal accepted that the firm had “sound, good business reasons” for the variation, and therefore had the potentially fair “some other substantial reason” for dismissing an employee who would not agree to it. However, the tribunal considered the dismissal unfair in the circumstances of this case, due to lack of consultation and failure to reasonably consider solutions other than dismissal.
The firm’s directors had decided at the outset that the new terms were non-negotiable and that anyone refusing to sign would be dismissed. The claimant’s attempts to discuss the matter had not resulted in any meaningful discussion, simply a re-stating of the firm’s position. The firm had acted too quickly in dismissing the claimant only two days after sending her the new terms. It had also failed to offer any right of appeal, which might have provided an opportunity for both sides to cool off and reach an agreement.
COVID-19: Dismissal of employee who expressed concerns about commuting and attending the office during lockdown and asked to be furloughed was not automatically unfair
In Accattatis v Fortuna Group (London) Ltd 3307587/2020 an employment tribunal has found that an employee who said he felt uncomfortable commuting and attending the office during lockdown and asked to be furloughed was not automatically unfairly dismissed under section 100(1)(e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996).
Mr Accattatis worked for Fortuna Group (London) Ltd, a company which sells and distributes PPE. During March and April 2020, Mr Accattatis repeatedly asked to work from home or be placed on furlough, explaining that he was uncomfortable using public transport and working in the office. Fortuna told Mr Accattatis that his job could not be done from home, and that furlough was not possible because the business was so busy, but that he could instead take holiday or unpaid leave. Mr Accattatis declined and asked three more times to be furloughed. After the final request on 21 April 2020, he was dismissed by email the same day.
Mr Accattatis did not have sufficient service to claim ordinary unfair dismissal. He instead alleged he had been automatically unfairly dismissed under section 100(1)(e) of the ERA 1996 for having taken steps to protect himself from danger.
The tribunal observed that the government had announced on 14 February 2020 that COVID-19 posed a serious and imminent threat to public health. This, together with Mr Accattatis’ emails expressing concern about commuting and attending the office, showed he reasonably believed there were circumstances of serious and imminent danger.
However, it was a requirement under section 100(1)(e) for Mr Accattitis to have taken appropriate steps to protect himself from danger or to have communicated the circumstances of danger to Fortuna. Fortuna had reasonably concluded that Mr Accattatis’ job could not be done from home and that he did not qualify for furlough but had instead suggested taking holiday or unpaid leave. Mr Accattatis’ response was not only that he wanted to stay at home (which was agreed), but also to demand that he be allowed to work from home (on full pay) or be furloughed (on 80% of pay). These demands were not appropriate steps to protect himself from danger, so his claim failed.
Although not binding, this case is a reminder that the pandemic may not on its own justify a refusal to attend work under section 100(1)(e) if employers have reasonably tried to accommodate employees’ concerns and reduce transmission risk.
COVID-19: Dismissal automatically unfair for raising concerns about lack of COVID-secure workplace measures
In the case of Gibson v Lothian Leisure ET/4105009/2020, the claimant, Mr Gibson, worked as a chef in a restaurant owned by Lothian Leisure. The restaurant closed temporarily in March 2020 due to the first COVID-19 lockdown, and Mr Gibson was furloughed. Before re-opening the restaurant, the employer asked Mr Gibson to come into work. Mr Gibson was concerned about catching COVID-19 at work and passing it onto his father, who was clinically vulnerable. When Mr Gibson raised concerns about the lack of PPE or other COVID-secure workplace precautions, the employer’s response was robustly negative, and he was told to “shut up and get on with it“.
With no prior discussion, the employer dismissed Mr Gibson summarily by text message on 30 May 2020. It did not pay him any notice pay or accrued holiday pay. The message said that Lothian Leisure was changing the format of the business and would be running it with a smaller team after the lockdown.
An employment tribunal held that Mr Gibson had been unfairly dismissed under section 100(1)(e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) because he had taken steps to protect his father in what he reasonably believed to be circumstances of serious and imminent danger. Alternatively, since the wording of the employer’s text message suggested a possible redundancy situation, Mr Gibson had been unfairly selected for redundancy under section 105(3) because he had taken those steps. The circumstances of danger were the growing prevalence of COVID-19 and the potential significant harm to Mr Gibson’s father if he contracted the virus. Mr Gibson reasonably believed that this was a serious and imminent danger, leading him to raise concerns regarding the lack of PPE. Until Mr Gibson had raised those concerns, he had been a successful and valued member of staff.
The tribunal also awarded Mr Gibson pay in lieu of notice and untaken holiday, underpaid furlough pay, and pension contributions that had been deducted but not paid into the pension scheme. It dismissed his claim under the whistleblowing provisions of the ERA 1996. His concern had only been for the health of his father and the tribunal was not satisfied that this met the public interest test under section 43B, although the point was arguable.
Worker Status: Employment tribunal to decide whether postmasters are workers
Website Personnel Today, has revealed that over 100 postmasters and sub-postmasters are bringing an employment tribunal claim against the Post Office in a bid to be classified as workers under the Employment Rights Act 1996, entitling them to benefits including holiday and sick pay. The claimants, who run Post Office franchises, will deploy arguments based on the level of control exerted by the Post Office, in a similar vein to those raised in Uber and others v Aslam and others  UKSC 5.
The case will be heard at the London Central employment tribunal later this month and will have an impact on thousands of postmasters and sub-postmasters across the country.
COVID-19: Employers join pledge to promote vaccine uptake amongst staff
Employers of over one million workers have pledged to promote a positive safety message and signpost staff to NHS providers in a bid to improve the UK’s vaccine uptake. Nine of the UK’s biggest employers, including IKEA, Asda and Nationwide, have signed the pledge which will also mean that employees will be able to get their vaccines during working hours. Interestingly, this announcement follows the publication of a poll by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) which found that 78% of employers had no plans to implement “vaccine certification” for employees returning to the office.
Gender Inequality: Government publishes response to Women and Equalities Committee report on gendered economic impact of COVID-19
On 14 May 2021, the government published its response to the Women and Equalities Committee report ‘Unequal Impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact’. The report found that government policies had consistently overlooked women’s caring responsibilities and the employment inequalities experienced by them and made wide-ranging recommendations.
The government’s response, however, rejects many of the recommendations, including a review of the adequacy of Statutory Sick Pay, amendments to Form HR1 to capture protected characteristic information, funding of training schemes aimed at women in certain fields and the publication of a gender equality plan for apprenticeships. However, it does state the following:
- Amendments to the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/1398), removing the 26-week service requirement for making a flexible working request, will be considered. The government wants to make it easier for people to work flexibly and is committed to encouraging flexible working. It will consult on making flexible working the default position, with a consultation to be issued in due course.
- The government is committed to bringing forward an Employment Bill “when parliamentary time allows“. However, there was no mention of an Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech of 11 May 2021. Consequently, the government will not publish the draft Employment Bill by the end of June 2021, as the report recommends.
- The government still intends to extend the redundancy protection period afforded to mothers on maternity leave. This protection will apply to pregnant women and for six months after a mother has returned to work, and will cover those taking adoption and shared parental leave. The measures will be brought forward “as soon as Parliamentary time allows“. No specific timeframe is provided. Notably, the measures were mentioned in the 2019 Queen’s Speech following a BEIS consultation in January 2019. The government is also considering proposals to require large employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies, with its formal response to a consultation from July 2019 awaited.
Finally, while calls for disability pay gap reporting are rejected, the government states that it is continuing to analyse relevant data and will respond to the ethnicity pay gap consultation in due course.
Flexible Working: Government to commence consultation on flexible working while National Rail catches up with the times
The Guardian reports that the government has confirmed it plans to commence a consultation which would consider whether flexible working would become the default option unless there are good reasons not to (a proposal originally set out in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto and subsequently included in the Employment Bill outlined in the Queen’s Speech). According to The Guardian, a government spokesperson has stated that this would not go as far as giving staff a legal right to work from home.
The government has stated on numerous occasions that it intended to consult on flexible working, including in its recent response to the Women and Equalities Committee report on gendered economic impact of COVID-19. A government advisory group, made up of business associations, charities and trade unions from ACAS to the CBI, has also recently recommended that flexible working should be the default position.
Following hot on the heels of this, National Rail recently announced a new ‘Flexi Season ticket’ which offers 8 days of peak time travel Monday to Fridayin a 28 day period, any time between two stations. The tickets will be on-sale from 21 June 2021, for use from 28 June 2021.
Parental Leave: Maternity Action publishes proposals to reform shared parental leave and John Lewis leads the way
Maternity Action has published a report recommending reform of shared parental leave (SPL). The report follows the campaign it started in April 2021 with other groups including the TUC and the Fawcett Society, and the government’s failure to include the long-awaited Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech which could have included proposals for SPL reform (see our May newsletter).
Maternity Action considers that the current scheme is not fit for purpose. Data provided by business minister Paul Scully, in response to a parliamentary question in February 2021, indicated that take-up among eligible fathers was just 3.6% in 2019/20, well below the government’s 25% target, and only 2% of all new fathers took SPL in 2019. The pandemic has only increased the problem, with the Women and Equalities Committee February 2021 report on the gendered impact of COVID-19 finding that the gender childcare gap increased during the pandemic (see above).
The report proposes that a new system should be introduced that provides individual, non-transferable, rights for each parent, as sharing or transferring of leave between parents has not worked, being too complex and poorly understood by parents and employers. A “6+6+6” model is proposed, replacing both the existing statutory maternity leave and SPL schemes. The first six months of leave being reserved for the mother, and then six months of non-transferable parental leave for each parent. This could be taken concurrently or consecutively, all in one go, or in smaller blocks of weeks or months, up to 18 months after the birth.
The report also recommends that:
- Maternity, paternity and parental leave and pay should be day one rights for all working parents, regardless of employment status.
- The right to return to the same job after any period of leave should be strengthened.
- Statutory leave pay should be increased to at least the national minimum wage level, and should in time be increased to the real living wage level and then wage-replacement levels.
In autumn 2021, John Lewis will introduce what is thought to be the UK’s first equalised parental pay policy, offering 26 weeks’ paid leave to all employees who have been at the company for a year when they have a baby. This will constitute 14 weeks of full pay and 12 weeks of 50% contractual pay. Employees who lose pregnancies will also receive greater support; being granted two weeks of paid leave alongside emotional support provisions including free counselling and mental health services.
John Lewis’ new policies come as part of efforts to redefine its responsibilities towards equality, one of its founding principles.
Diversity: Report suggests firms with targeted support for ethnic minority workers have higher revenues
People Management reports that Henley Business School has published a report revealing that businesses with targeted measures to support their ethnic minority workers have an average revenue of £5.6 billion; 58% higher than the £3.6 billion made by firms that do not.
The report, which analysed the earnings of 100 firms in the FTSE 350, also found that the market capitalisation for companies who have targeted measures was an average of £4.3 billion higher than companies that have failed to introduce any. In the introduction to the report, lead researcher Dr Naeema Pasha suggests that the research demonstrates that adopting an inclusive culture can help organisations improve wellbeing, engagement, sustainability and innovation, leading to better outcomes for all employees.
Legislation: Skills and Post-16 Education Bill introduced in Parliament
On 18 May 2021, the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill 2021-22 (the Bill) was introduced in Parliament. It contains measures aimed at creating more routes into skilled employment and ensuring that the training on offer meets the needs of local areas.
The Bill provides the legislative underpinning for the reforms set out in the ‘Skills for Jobs White Paper’. It is intended to improve the functioning of the post-16 education system and support the introduction of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, aimed at transforming the training and skills system to ensure more people gain skills to progress their employment prospects.
The following measures introduced by the Bill are likely to be of interest to employers:
- A power for the Secretary of State for Education to designate employer representative bodies to lead the development of local skills improvement plans.
- A duty for education and training providers to co-operate with employer representative bodies to develop and review local skills improvement plans, and to have regard to them when making decisions on the provision of post-16 education and training.
- Additional functions for the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in relation to new categories of technical qualifications that relate to employer-led standards and occupations.
The Bill is scheduled to have its second reading on 15 June 2021.
Employment Rights: Government publishes response to consultation on single enforcement body
On 8 June 2021, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published the government’s response on the proposal to create a single enforcement body for employment rights. The proposal was made in the government’s Good Work Plan policy paper published in December 2018 and consulted upon in the latter half of 2019.
As a result of the consultation responses received, the government proposes to create a single enforcement body which will bring three existing bodies into one organisation with a significant remit to enforce employment rights and improve employers’ compliance. The body will have an extensive remit to protect workers in relation to national minimum wage, labour exploitation and modern slavery, holiday pay for vulnerable workers and statutory sick pay. The government will legislate to implement the single enforcement body “when parliamentary time allows”.
ACAS Update: In response to ACAS report, government confirms no current intention to ban “fire and rehire” practices
On 8 June 2021, ACAS published its report into so-called “fire and rehire” practices. The report was commissioned by BEIS and delivered to minsters in February 2021.
Intended as a fact-finding exercise, rather than to recommend reforms to the practice, the report notes a wide range of opinions amongst participants over the use by employers of fire and rehire. Although use of the practice has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, participants did not agree over whether this was because employers were using the pandemic opportunistically as a “smokescreen” to diminish employees’ rights or whether it was merely a response to the scale of the challenges faced by businesses during this time.
There was a similar divergence of views amongst participants over whether reform to the practice was needed and, if so, what these reforms should be. Some participants in the report felt that fire and rehire is never reasonable and should be outlawed by legislation. Others felt that the practice can be reasonable if used as a genuine and unavoidable last resort. Concerns were also expressed that any reform could lead to less flexibility for employers, resulting in more businesses failing, and consequently to more redundancies.
Responding to the report in the House of Commons, Paul Scully MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for BEIS, confirmed that the government does not propose to devise “heavy-handed legislation” to ban fire and rehire at this stage. Instead, Mr Scully confirmed that the government has instructed ACAS to prepare clearer guidance on when fire and rehire should be used and good practice for employers. However, Mr Scully said the government will continue to work with ACAS on this issue, and confirmed that “nothing is off the table“.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com.