Employment Law General Update – February 2023
We bring you a month of reports and inquiries. Two reports from a think tank and the IES into how women’s finances are affected by their working life and what impact this can have on the gender pension gap. A new Bill has been given government backing to give zero hours workers more certainty by requesting a more predictable work pattern. A troubling and impactful inquiry has been published into the TSSA, with stark consequences, and a study finds that despite having whistleblowing policies in place, many require better implementation and training.
- Pensions: Think tank publishes two reports on the gender pension gap with recommendations
- Zero Hours Contracts: Government backs law to give workers right to request more predictable work pattern
- Trade Unions: Inquiry finds Sexual harassment rife at TSSA
- Whistleblowing: Majority of firms have whistleblowing policies, but lack formal training for those handling concerns, study finds
Pensions: Think tank publishes two reports on the gender pension gap with recommendations
Two reports from think tank Phoenix Insights and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) exploring women’s finances through the lens of the workplace, set out a number of recommendations to assist women’s ability to save thereby closing the gender pension gap. The gender pay gap already disadvantages women’s future finances because it means they are more likely to contribute less to their retirement savings than their male peers. The research found that this disparity is made worse by life events, including motherhood, menopause, divorce, childcare, menstruation and caring responsibilities which can all disproportionately affect a woman’s earnings, and therefore pension contributions.
Some of the key findings in the reports include that the gender pay gap is a significant contributor to the gender pension gap, yet women on average contribute a larger proportion of their salary to their pension. On average, women are contributing a higher percentage of their monthly income into their pension than men up until middle age – 6.1% compared to 5.8% aged 35-44 by middle age – where care responsibilities fall to one in four women in the UK – men are paying almost £80 more per month into their pension than women. Women are more likely than men to fall under the auto-enrolment threshold (women 35% : men 11%). Automatic enrolment closed the contribution gap in participation but increased the gap in terms of contribution. Women are more likely to be economically inactive due to long-term health conditions than men. There is limited awareness among employers of the causes and consequences of the gender pension gap, resulting in a lack of action over and above the statutory minimum allowances that seek to improve the savings capacity of women across the different life stages.
The think tank report recommends employers should be required to inform employees about the pensions impact that changes to their working hours and earnings may have, to help close the gender pension gap.
The opportunity for employers – five key recommendations:
- re-enrol workers into pension schemes annually, rather than the statutory three years, to give workers the opportunity to re-engage if they have taken career breaks or have opted out because of a lack of affordability
- ensure employer pension contributions continue during periods of parental leave
- adopt a minimum of five days unpaid leave per year for those with childcare responsibilities, and where possible, five days paid carer’s leave
- make flexible working the norm from day one and highlight this across all job roles
- ensure workplace health policies offer explicit and visible support for reproductive conditions such as miscarriage, fertility treatment, for those diagnosed with endometriosis and managing menopause symptoms
The role of government – five key recommendations:
- legally require employers to provide information on how contractual changes impact pension contributions
- revisit the Carer’s Leave Bill to ensure that unpaid careers can access up to ten days statutory paid leave
- the legal right to flexible working should be available from the first day of employment, and the number of reasons to reject flexibility should reduce from eight to two
- widen the coverage of auto-enrolment by lowering age and earnings eligibility threshold to 18 years and £0, respectively
- review the advice and guidance boundary so that a larger population can access tailored and reliable financial support
Zero Hours Contracts: Government backs law to give workers right to request more predictable work pattern
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced that the government is backing Blackpool South MP Scott Benton’s Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill. The Bill seeks to ensure that all employees, even agency workers, receive more predictable working patterns.
‘Hard working staff on zero hours contracts across the country put their lives on hold to make themselves readily available for shifts that may never actually come’ said Labour Markets Minister, Kevin Hollinrake. ‘Employers having one-sided flexibility over their staff is unfair and unreasonable. This Bill will ensure workers can request more predictable working patterns where they want them, so they can get on with their daily lives.’ The Bill provides that if an employee’s existing working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours they work, the times they work, or if it is a fixed term contract for less than 12 months, they may make a formal application to change their working pattern to make it more predictable. The move comes as part of a package of policies designed to further workers’ rights, such as:
- paid neonatal care leave
- requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities, and service charges are paid to workers in full
- entitling unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave
- providing employees with a day one right to request flexible working, and a greater say over when, where, and how they work
Trade Unions: Inquiry finds sexual harassment rife at TSSA
A misogynistic, ‘mafia-like’ culture of sexual harassment, bullying and violent language has permeated one of Britain’s transport unions, a new independent inquiry has revealed. An investigation by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC into the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) concluded on 8 February 2023 that ‘there has been sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within the TSSA and that the leadership and culture has enabled these behaviours through wilful blindness, power hoarding and poor practices’.
Kennedy’s report called for sweeping changes in an organisation where absolute power was concentrated in ‘a very small number of hands’, and called for new leadership at the TSSA. The TSSA opened the investigation in September 2022 after its General Secretary at the time, Manuel Cortes, was accused of sexual harassment by several women. Cortes, who has since retired with an undisclosed payout, denies the allegations. Kennedy pointed out in her report that neither the internal leadership of the TSSA nor the executive committee understood that to say they had not witnessed inappropriate behaviour is not an acceptable response to an ‘atmosphere of fear’ and an environment of ‘open secrets’.
Only two of the 50 people who volunteered to speak to Kennedy as she carried out her inquiry had any positive words to say about the TSSA’s culture, according to her report. The rest described a ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘mafia-like’ culture across the TSSA. The organisation was sexist, racist and homophobic, they said.
Kennedy said that a ‘distressing element’ of her inquiry was realising how little senior leaders at the TSSA seemed to have ‘moved with the times’. Their approach to management was ‘controlling’ and described by many staff members as bullying. The barrister said that, combined with governance failings, meant the ‘outdated attitudes of scepticism and disbelief of women’ formed a ‘dangerous mixture’.
Kennedy noted that the recent history of ‘wage suppression’, particularly in the public sector, and the ‘casual erosion of employment rights’ through precarious work points to an urgent need for healthy trade unions. She recommended a sweeping change of leadership, a realistic time-frame for reform and ‘serious investment of time in culture change’ to make a success of the TSSA.
TSSA said in response that the report made ‘difficult reading’ and highlighted serious problems that the union had to tackle. A spokesperson said the TSSA recognised the need for sweeping reform and stated its commitment to tackle institutional issues and drive through a culture change. ‘As a union, TSSA fights for equality, fairness and social justice for all, regularly winning on equality issues for our members’, the spokesperson said. ‘But it is clear from this report that our union has not followed the values we aspire to for our members.’
The President and Treasurer of the TSSA have stood down with immediate effect and interim replacements had been appointed, the spokesperson added. The TSSA has confirmed it is committed to take comprehensive, considered and meaningful action to address [the report’s] findings, and to enable the necessary further investigation and decisions to be made, the TSSA has suspended all five senior members of staff named in the report, including former General Secretary, Manuel Cortes.
Responding to the report, the TUC stated that ‘sexual harassment and bullying have no place in the trade union movement or any workplace. The TUC believes the women who came forward to share their experiences’. The TSSA have been asked to meet with the TUC General Secretary and the TUC President to discuss next steps.
The Kennedy report comes after a similar 2020 investigation into the GMB, conducted by Karon Monaghan KC, concluded that the GMB is institutionally sexist, and bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic within the GMB.
Whistleblowing: Majority of firms have whistleblowing policies, but lack formal training for those handling concerns, study finds
On 16 February 2023, an article by People Management reported that a study by whistleblowing and compliance services provider Safecall, which surveyed HR managers and directors from 222 organisations, found that that while 17 per cent of respondent organisations lacked a whistleblowing policy, the majority (83 per cent) did have one in place, and for those companies that provide internal whistleblowing services, only 58 per cent of their investigators had been formally trained.
The report also discovered:
- more than two fifths (42 per cent) of employees responsible for managing whistleblowing complaints have either self-taught, learned their skills through experience, or have no experience at all
- more than half (57 per cent) of HR professionals surveyed believed that their employees were actively encouraged to report wrongdoing.
- however, just 42.6 per cent said employees “generally feel safe” to do so,
- the majority (74 per cent) of HR professionals could not be certain that whistleblowers were confident in raising concerns, and
- one in five (20 per cent) organisations have whistleblowing processes that their employees would find to be “highly untrustworthy”.
The article goes on to discuss various aspects of having whistleblowing policies. A policy that emphasises how employees can bring matters to their employer’s attention, which may help employers avoid or at least reduce the risk of employment claims by increasing the likelihood that disclosures will be readily identified as qualifying as a protected disclosures.
However, problems arise where there is a fundamental lack of trust between an organisation and its workforce. Having a whistleblowing policy that ensures there is a clear procedure that must be followed by all staff when a complaint is made can support businesses in fostering a transparent and open company culture. The policy should also demonstrate that staff should not be victimised or subjected to any detrimental treatment as a result of bringing a complaint.
Last year, legal experts warned HR professionals of the consequences of workers whistleblowing on their former and current employers for coronavirus job retention schemes, with law firm Pinsent Masons reporting that 13,775 furlough fraud whistleblowing reports were made to HMRC.
Meanwhile, a previous People Management report found that one in five (20 per cent) employees who had gone to their bosses with concerns over furlough fraud and breaches of Covid-19 safety rules were sacked as result.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment Law Case Update – February 2023
This month’s review covers a range of issues. We look at sex discrimination involving a lack of a private toilet for a female employee, how an employee who worked term time should have had her holiday pay calculated to take account of the national minimum wage, a potential revision of couriers’ holiday pay following the Pimlico Plumbers case, how not to deal with a flexible working request, and an appeal to reconsider a dismissal related to the pandemic.
- Sex Discrimination: Risk of seeing man at urinal was direct sex discrimination
- Pay: Contractual terms of salaried term-time worker entitled her to NMW for 52 weeks of the year
- Holiday Pay Claims: Tribunal decision remitted following Court of Appeal decision in Pimlico Plumbers
- Indirect Discrimination: Rejection of flexible working request is application of PCP
- COVID-19: Sales rep wins bid to dispute firing over COVID-19 home working
Sex Discrimination: Risk of seeing man at urinal was direct sex discrimination
In Earl Shilton Town Council v Miller  EAT 5, the EAT has rejected Earl Shilton Town Council’s case that it did not treat ex-clerk Karen Miller worse than men in its shared toilet arrangement. The council launched its appeal after the employment tribunal ruled in 2020 it failed to provide appropriate toilet facilities to ex-clerk Karen Miller for almost two years between 2016 and 2018. The tribunal concluded that Ms Miller had been treated less favourably because she ran the risk of seeing men using the urinal. The council argued in its appeal that Ms Miller was not treated less favourably than men because they were just as much at risk of being seen at the urinal as she was of seeing them. The Judge Tayler rejected its case, concluding that Ms Miller’s sex discrimination claim did not fall apart just because a man could also make a similar complaint. It was enough to establish that Ms Miller had a worse experience than a man would seeing another man at the urinal, he said.
‘Taken from her perspective the claimant was treated less favourably than men in that she, a woman, was at risk of seeing a man using the urinals’, Judge Tayler said. ‘While a man might see another man use the urinals, the treatment of the claimant, as a woman, was less favourably.’
The judgment details how the council, which was based in a Methodist Church that it shared with a playschool, only had access to a female toilet that was in the school’s half of the building. Female staff would have to check with playschool workers that no children were using the toilet first because of child safety concerns, according to the judgment. The toilets were not always immediately accessible as a result. The council offered her the use of the men’s toilet, which has a single cubicle and a multi-person urinal. But there was no lock on the external door, creating the risk that a woman might walk in on a man using the urinal or leave the cubicle to find a man using it. The council also contended in its appeal that the sharing arrangements could not be discriminatory because they were caused by child safety concerns.
Judge Taylor ruled that the arrangements were not good enough, citing the lack of a sanitary bin and suggesting that installing a lock on the toilet door may have made it compliant.
‘The facilities were inadequate for the claimant because she is a woman’, he said. ‘Accordingly, the safeguarding issue could only go to motive and could not prevent direct discrimination being established.’
Pay: Contractual terms of salaried term-time worker entitled her to NMW for 52 weeks of the year
In Lloyd v Elmhurst School Limited  EAT 169, the claimant was employed by the respondent, a private school, as a teaching assistant. She initially worked two days a week and then this was increased to three days a week (21 hours per week). She was paid monthly in equal instalments. The claimant’s contract did not set out hours of work. However, it stated that during term time she would work as directed by the Head Teacher and be entitled to the usual school holidays as holidays with pay. The respondent calculated the claimant’s salary based on 40 weeks of the year. The claimant brought a claim in the employment tribunal for unlawful deduction from wages based on an underpayment of the National Minimum Wage (NMW). She argued that her hours over the year should be calculated as 52 weeks x 21 hours, and not 40 weeks x 21 hours. If her method of calculation was accepted as correct there was an underpayment of the NMW.
A salaried worker is entitled to receive the NMW for their ‘basic hours’ which, by virtue of regulations 3, 21(3), 22(5) of the NMW Regulations 2015 (NMWR 2015), are determined by the terms of their contract of employment, even if those basic hours are greater than the hours actually worked. On the facts of this case, even though the claimant only worked term-time as a teaching assistant, she was entitled to the NMW for 52 weeks of the year rather than just her working weeks plus statutory holiday, because her contract provided that ‘… she was entitled to the usual school holidays as holiday with pay’, according to the EAT.
The employment tribunal dismissed the claimant’s claim. It found that the claimant worked term-time only; when the claimant accepted her job it was on her and the school’s understanding that she would work term time only; the contract did not explicitly set this out but this was consistent with clause 3(b) of the contract; the wording of clause 4 of the contract did not mean that these hours were deemed to be working hours for the purposes of the NMW legislation; the wording ‘the usual school holidays as holidays with pay’ did not mean that the 12 weeks of school holiday should be paid at the same rate as when the claimant was working/on statutory leave and included in her basic hours worked calculation for NMW purposes.
The claimant appealed to the EAT. In relation to the construction of ‘basic hours’ in NMWR 2015, it was not in dispute that the claimant was a permanent employee, who was employed throughout the school year and who was engaged in ‘salaried hours work’ for the purpose of NMWR 2015, nor that the claimant met the four conditions in regulation 21, including the second condition in regulation 21(3) that she was entitled to be paid in respect of a number of hours in a year and that those hours necessarily could be ascertained from her contract.
The principal point of dispute on statutory interpretation was which non-working hours of absence or holiday count towards basic hours. The claimant argued that, while it depends on the individual contract, basic hours include all the hours which are paid as contractual holiday. While the respondent argued that the only periods of absence which count towards basic hours are those which are absences from days when the worker would otherwise be working.
The EAT allowed the appeal. It agreed with the claimant on the issue of statutory interpretation and held that the code, Act and regulations were a poor guide to what hours are to be treated as basic hours, and the ascertainment of the claimant’s ‘basic hours’ depended on the meaning of her contract: the statutory question was not answered by looking at the hours which she in fact worked. Her annual basic hours, as ascertained from her contract, would then fall to be divided by 12 to give the hours of salaried work for each one-month pay reference period. It held that as a matter of general principle, some periods of fully paid absence count towards the ‘basic hours’ of salaried hours work, e.g. if the worker’s contract said they were entitled to a salary of £400 a week for a 40-hour week and to seven weeks’ holiday at full pay their annual basic hours would be based on a multiplier of 52 weeks.
In relation to the individual grounds of appeal, the EAT held that the tribunal erred in examining the hours the claimant in fact worked, to which it added her statutory entitlement to paid annual leave; failing to ascertain the number of hours in the year for which the claimant was entitled to salary in accordance with her contract, as to which the meaning of clause 4 of her contract was of central importance; examining whether the claimant was engaged in ‘working activity’ outside term-time, rather than asking whether those periods of contractual holiday could form part of her basic hours; inconsistently including statutory leave but excluding contractual leave; and relying regulation 27 (whether a worker is ‘available at or near a place of work’ for the purpose of doing work) and not to regulation 21(3), and, in doing, so wrongly focused on when the claimant was in fact engaged in working or working activity.
The EAT remitted the matter to a freshly constituted employment tribunal for the determination, in light of its judgment, of all the issues relevant to the claimant’s claim of unlawful deduction from wages.
Holiday Pay Claims: Tribunal decision remitted following Court of Appeal decision in Pimlico Plumbers
In Alston and 44 Ors v The Doctors Laboratory Ltd and Ors  EAT 13 a group of couriers have successfully applied to the EAT to set aside by consent an employment tribunal decision on an application of time limits in holiday pay claims under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998) which had ruled that they could carry over paid holidays between years only if they had not already taken unpaid leave, after arguing that a Court of Appeal decision voided the employment tribunal judgment on this point.
Forty-five claimants, 38 of them represented by trade union Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), argued before the EAT that the Court of Appeal’s decision in Smith v Pimlico Plumbers Ltd in February 2022 removed restrictions on how much paid leave they are due. The Honourable Mrs Justice Eady, current President of the EAT, agreed, saying that an employment tribunal’s 2020 decision in the couriers’ case ‘cannot stand and must be set aside’. The couriers ‘were and remain entitled to carry over any untaken paid annual leave’ until their contracts end or the employer, The Doctors Laboratory Ltd, allows them to take the paid holidays they have accrued, Mrs Justice Eady ruled.
It is one of the first cases to rely on the Pimlico Plumbers precedent, which allows people who were wrongly denied paid holiday to claim up to 5.6 weeks’ worth of pay—the equivalent of statutory annual leave—for each year of their employment. For people who have been misclassified as self-employed rather than workers, the precedent removed a previous two-year limit to compensation claims—now, they can stretch back as far as 1996.
The Doctors Laboratory, the UK’s largest independent clinical lab, did not give its couriers paid holiday until 2018, when it conceded they were entitled to up to four weeks a year as ‘limb (b) workers’, a legal category of worker under section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
The company argued before the employment tribunal in 2020 that unpaid leave the couriers had taken before 2018 should be subtracted from their holiday entitlement going forward.
The tribunal agreed the couriers’ right to carry over leave year-on-year ‘exists subject to qualification’.
Employment Judge Elliott ruled that unpaid leave was ‘capable of amounting to annual leave’ because it fulfils the health and safety objective of the European Working Time Directive, which is the root of UK working time law. But the couriers’ counsel argued before the EAT that Pimlico Plumbers allows workers to accumulate paid holiday if they have taken unpaid leave for reasons beyond their control.
The couriers and The Doctors Laboratory remain at odds over whether the couriers count as workers. If so, they could be entitled to the full 5.6 weeks’ statutory annual leave. Judge Eady remitted the matter to the employment tribunal for further directions.
Indirect Discrimination: Rejection of flexible working request is application of PCP
In Glover v (1) Lacoste UK Ltd (2) Harmon  EAT 4 the EAT dealt with the question of when a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) can be said to have been ‘applied’ to an employee, for the purposes of a claim of indirect discrimination under section 19 of Equality Act 2010. The EAT held that once an application for flexible working (eg to work on a limited number of days only each week) is determined, following an appeal process, the PCP (eg to be fully flexible as to working days) has been applied, and may therefore have put the applicant at a disadvantage, for the purposes of an indirect discrimination claim. That is the case even if the applicant is away from work when the request is made and never returns to work. It remains the case even if the employer subsequently agrees to the terms of the original application.
COVID-19: Sales rep wins bid to dispute firing over COVID-19 home working
The EAT has agreed to hear arguments from a salesman fired after asking to work from home or be granted a leave of absence during the COVID-19 lockdown, that the employment tribunal failed to consider his belief that these were reasonable steps to avoid infection. The EAT granted Francesco Accattatis permission to challenge a decision in favour of his former employer Fortuna Group, which sells protective medical equipment like face masks and gloves. The company said Accattatis had failed to ‘support and fully comply with company policies’, which included working from its office in Enfield, North London, when it fired him in April 2020, approximately a month into the first national coronavirus lockdown. But Accattatis argued a 2021 employment tribunal ruling only considered the company’s belief that it was not possible for him to work from home or be placed on furlough. ‘To focus exclusively on the respondent’s view of the situation was an error’, his counsel, told the EAT. ‘I don’t see that the respondent’s view of whether something is feasible, or whether it was feasible, was a relevant matter’.
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996), it is unlawful to fire an employee for refusing to return to a workplace because they believed there was a ‘serious and imminent danger’ they couldn’t reasonably avoid. Whether the steps the employee took were appropriate to avoid that danger must be judged ‘by reference to all the circumstances, including, in particular, his knowledge and the facilities and advice available to him at the time’.
The employment tribunal ruled Accattatis’ requests were not appropriate steps because the company ‘reasonably and justifiably concluded’ that he could not work from home or claim furlough.
But Judge James Tayler agreed at a hearing on 9 February 2023 that it is arguable the tribunal misinterpreted the law and allowed the appeal to proceed. Accattatis will also be able to argue that the reason Fortuna gave for his dismissal was not properly distinguished from managers’ low opinion of him.
He had asked his bosses several times about working from home, which he felt was possible. Fortuna and the tribunal disagreed that Accattatis was needed in the office to manage deliveries of equipment and use specialist software, the 2021 judgment noted. He sent several emails throughout April 2020 while on sick leave for a suspected case of Covid-19 urging managers to place him on furlough. ‘I can assure you I already received confirmation from several sources that [the] coronavirus job retention scheme is easily accessible, by any company still actively trading during this time of emergency, without any downside to it’, one email reads. His counsel said this demonstrated Accattatis’ belief that furlough was possible and that urging Fortuna to reconsider was an appropriate step. ‘It’s the manner of the demands, that they were impertinent, that was the reason for the dismissal’, he said.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
Employment Law Case Update – January 2023
We start off the new year with a Court of Appeal decision on whether a worker who declined to go back to work for fear of COVID-19 was unfairly dismissed or not, the first of its kind at this level. We also take a look at two discrimination cases, a Court of Justice of the European Union case about requirements on employers to provide ‘special corrective appliances’ (such as glasses), and a claim for misuse of private information concerning the reasonable expectation of privacy in private WhatsApp messages.
- COVID-19: First Court of Appeal decision on the application of ERA 1996, s.100(1)(d) to COVID-19 dismissals
- Discrimination: Whether PCP requiring disabled employee to work full-time had been applied, despite employer having part-time roles
- Discrimination: Narrow test for marital status discrimination confirmed
- Health & Safety at Work: Display screen equipment and the provision of spectacles by employers
- Data Protection: Misuse of private information and abuse of process
COVID-19: First Court of Appeal decision on the application of ERA 1996, s.100(1)(d) to COVID-19 dismissals
In Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting  EWCA Civ 1659, the claimant worked for the respondent as a laser operative in a large warehouse-type space about the size of half a football pitch in which usually only five people would be working. Following the first national ‘lockdown’ on 23 March 2020, the respondent told employees that the business would remain open, asked staff to work as normally as possible and stated ‘we are putting measures in place to allow us to work as normal’. Recommendations were made by an external risk assessment covering most of the things which were already in place before it was undertaken. The claimant left work as usual on 27 March 2020, having not made any complaint about his conditions at work. He obtained a self-isolation note until 3 April 2020 due to having a cough. On 29 March 2020, the claimant told his line manager he had to self-isolate because one child was high risk with sicklecell and a 7 month old baby. His manager agreed. Unfortunately, during this period he drove a friend who had broken his leg to hospital and at some point worked in a pub during the lockdown. On 24 April 2020 he found out he’d been dismissed and was sent his P45.
The claimant made a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds of health and safety. Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996), s.100(1)(d), any dismissal of an employee will be automatically unfair, if the reason (or, if more than one, the principal reason) for the dismissal is that, in circumstances of danger which the worker/employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which they could not reasonably have been expected to avert, the employee:
- left or proposed to leave, or
- (while the danger persisted) refused to return to
their place of work or any dangerous part of their place of work. ‘Dangers’ in this context are not limited to dangers arising out of the workplace itself, but also cover dangers caused by the behaviour of fellow employees.
The questions that the employment tribunal has to decide in a case under ERA 1996, s.100(1)(d) are:
- Did the employee believe that there were circumstances of serious and imminent danger at the workplace? If so:
- Was that belief reasonable? If so:
- Could they reasonably have averted that danger? If not:
- Did they leave, or propose to leave or refuse to return to, the workplace, or the relevant part, because of the (perceived) serious and imminent danger? If so:
- Was that the reason (or principal reason) for the dismissal?
The tribunal rejected the claim for a number of reasons, including that his evidence was inconsistent, his beliefs of serious imminent danger were not supported by his actions (driving his friend to hospital and working in a pub) and not related to his workplace but to the world at large, he had made no complaint about his specific working conditions, and the measures put in place by the employer (if followed) would make the business as safe as possible from infection.
The claimant appealed, arguing that the tribunal had erred in law by concluding that because his belief was one of a serious and imminent danger at large (i.e. in the whole community), his belief that his workplace presented a serious and imminent danger was not objectively reasonable. The Court of Appeal, like the EAT before it, dismissed the appeal because the claimant’s case failed on its own facts. While the coronavirus pandemic could, in principle, give rise to circumstances of danger that an employee could reasonably believe to be serious and imminent, this was not the situation in this particular claimant’s case in respect of his workplace.
The Court of Appeal has confirmed that, on the particular facts of this case, where the employee refused to return to work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in circumstances where the employer had put in place social distancing in the workplace and other measures like handwashing and face masks, the employment tribunal did not err in law in concluding that the claimant had not reasonably believed that there were circumstances of danger which were serious and imminent, or which could not be reasonably averted, and as result the dismissal was not automatically unfair under section 100(1)(d) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996).
Guidance was given on the interpretation of ERA 1996, s 100(1)(d) including that:
- it is sufficient that the employee had a (reasonable) belief in the existence of the danger as well as in its seriousness and imminence. They do not also have to prove that objectively such circumstances of danger did in fact exist;
- the subsection does not apply where the perceived danger arose on the employee’s journey to work. The perceived danger must arise at the workplace. However it does not follow that the danger need be present only at the workplace;
- while the paradigm case under ERA 1996, s 100 (1)(d) is where a danger arises by reason of some problem with the premises or equipment, there is nothing about the risk of employees infecting each other with a disease that takes it outside the scope of the subsection: the tribunal will have to decide whether on the particular facts of each case it amounts to a serious and imminent danger.
While the outcome of this case ultimately turned on its own particular facts, the judgment is nonetheless of interest because it is the first appeal to reach the Court of Appeal on the application of ERA 1996, s 100(1) to dismissals related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Discrimination: Whether PCP requiring disabled employee to work full-time had been applied, despite employer having part-time roles
In Davies v EE Ltd  EAT 191, the EAT considered what amounted to a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) for the purposes of a disability discrimination claim relating to an alleged failure to make reasonable adjustments.
The employee, who was employed full-time, relied on two PCPs, which she contended had left her at a substantial disadvantage: (i) a requirement for employees to complete a full-time working pattern of 40 hours per week, with each shift approximately 9½ hours in length, and (ii) a requirement for employees to complete the shifts without agreeing any reduction in hours. The employment tribunal held that because the respondent employed some employees on a part-time basis and had allowed the claimant a phased return to work, neither PCP had been made out on the facts.
The EAT held that the tribunal had erred in law in concluding that the fact that the employer had other staff who worked part-time had meant that a PCP of requiring the employee to work her contracted hours of 40 per week had not been applied to her. Also, the fact that a temporary adjustment had been made during the employee’s phased return to work did not mean that the PCP had ceased to exist.
Discrimination: Narrow test for marital status discrimination confirmed
In Ellis v Bacon  EAT 188, the EAT considered a matter of two married director/shareholders whose messy divorce impacted the divorcing wife’s income from the company. Another director, Mr Ellis, sided with the husband, Mr Bacon, in relation to the marital dispute and was compliant with him in removing the Mrs Bacon’s directorship, not paying her dividends, reporting her to the police and suspending and dismissing her on spurious grounds. The employment tribunal held that these actions involved less favourable treatment by Mr Ellis against Mrs Bacon because of her marital status as a wife to Mr Bacon. Mr Ellis appealed.
The EAT held that in a claim of direct discrimination because of the protected characteristic of marriage, the employment tribunal must consider whether it was the claimant’s marital status which was the cause of the less favourable treatment and not the fact that they were married to a particular person. Further, an appropriate hypothetical comparator is someone in a close relationship but not married, and the tribunal must consider whether such a person would have been treated differently.
A person directly discriminates against another person where they treat them less favourably than they treat or would treat others, and they do so because of a protected characteristic. Marriage and civil partnership are protected characteristics. A person has the protected characteristic of marriage if the person is married (which includes a person who is married to a person of the same sex); of civil partnership if the person is a civil partner. Note that people who are not married, or not civil partners, do not have this protected characteristic.
Cases on discrimination because of marriage are very rare. This judgment confirms that the test is to be narrowly construed, with the causative reason for the less favourable treatment being the marital status and not:
- the identity of the spouse, or
- the closeness of the relationship.
As a result, there seems very limited scope for claimants to bring successful claims in the context of modern society and the legal concept of protection on grounds of marital status looks increasingly like an outdated concept.
Health & Safety at Work: Display screen equipment and the provision of spectacles by employers
In TJ v Inspectoratul General pentru Imigrări, C-392/21, the Court of Justice of the European Union held that Article 9 of Council Directive 90/270/EEC, on the minimum safety and health requirements for work with display screen equipment, which is implemented in the UK by regulation 5 of the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, must be interpreted as follows:
- there is no requirement for a causal link between display screen work and potential visual difficulties;
- ‘special corrective appliances’ include spectacles aimed specifically at the correction and prevention of visual difficulties relating to work involving display screen equipment;
- those ‘special corrective appliances’ are not limited to appliances used exclusively for professional purposes, i.e. they may be used at other times too; and
- the employer’s obligation to provide the workers concerned with a special corrective appliance may be met by the direct provision of the appliance to the worker by the employer or by reimbursement of the necessary expenses incurred by the worker, but not by the payment of a general salary supplement to the worker.
Data Protection: Misuse of private information and abuse of process
In FKJ v RVT  EWHC 3 (KB), which concerned a claim for misuse of private information, the court considered the extent to which there can be a reasonable expectation of privacy in private WhatsApp messages found at work, and how such material should be dealt with in the context of ongoing legal proceedings. FKJ brought a claim in the employment tribunal against her former employers on the grounds of sex discrimination, unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal, amid allegations of sexual harassment by the first defendant, RVT. FKJ lost that employment tribunal claim, in large part due to evidence deployed by RVT which consisted of some 18,000 of FKJ’s private WhatsApp messages. Prior to that tribunal hearing, the defendants had come to be in possession of a complete log of messages exchanged between FKJ and both her partner and her best friend, some of which were ‘of the most intimate kind’. FKJ brought a claim for misuse of private information.
While there was some dispute over how RVT came to be in possession of these messages, spanning a period of two years, FKJ only became aware of them being in his possession when she received the defendants’ grounds of resistance in the employment tribunal proceedings. FKJ chose not to seek exclusion of those messages from evidence, or to seek aggravated damages as a result of RVT’s conduct. Instead, FKJ chose to pursue a claim for misuse of private information in the High Court.
RKJ brought a counter claim grounded in the common law torts of malicious prosecution and abuse of process, and harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. RVT also sought to strike out the claim and seek summary judgment on his counterclaim. As a fall back, the defendants sought payment of significant sums into court by FKJ as a condition of the proceedings continuing.
The court gave short shrift to the defendants’ applications, reaching the ‘clear conclusion that they are without merit’. Parts of the applications were ‘not worthy of serious consideration’ and appeared to be ‘an attempt to stifle a claim that the defendants would prefer not to contest on its merits’. Both the strike out and summary judgment applications were dismissed.
[Written by Charlotte Clayson, partner at Trowers & Hamlins LLP, for Lexis+.]
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment Law General Update – October 2022
This month our update covers a new online service to help employers support disabled employees, the CIPD has found gaps in support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss, there’s new draft guidance from the ICO, an update on the future of the four-day week, frustration over the scrapping of the plans to abolish the changes to off-payroll working rules, new guidance on the Professional Qualifications Act 2022, and research into allyships for underrepresented groups.
- Disability: New online service to help employers support disabled employees
- Support & Leave: CIPD report reveals gaps in workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss
- Data Protection: ICO consults on monitoring at work draft guidance
- Working Practices: One third of employers expect a four-day week to be a reality within ten years
- IR35: Frustration from business groups over latest Chancellor’s backtracking over the repeal of the IR35 rules
- Brexit: Government publishes guidance for UK regulators on Professional Qualifications Act 2022
- Discrimination: Research finds intent to be an ally often does not translate into action
Disability: New online service to help employers support disabled employees
On 17 October 2022, the government announced a £6.4 million investment to help employers support employees with disabilities and health conditions. Part of this investment will fund a new online service that will provide information and advice about how to support and manage employees with disabilities or health conditions, whether they are in or out of work. The service will be free and can be accessed by any employer although it is aimed at smaller businesses who may not have in-house HR support or access to occupational health services. It is hoped this service will help small businesses develop more inclusive workforces.
An early test version of the Support with Employee Health and Disability service is currently active and will be updated and developed over the next three years. An online survey is open for businesses and disability groups to offer feedback that will be used to inform the development of the site.
Support & Leave: CIPD report reveals gaps in workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss
A report published by the CIPD has identified gaps in workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss. Only a quarter of employees surveyed received paid compassionate or other special leave in this situation and a fifth of employees received no support at all from their employer. After compassionate leave, the types of support that employees identified as being most helpful were understanding from managers and colleagues that it is a difficult time, paid time off to attend appointments and the option to work from home when needed.
The CIPD has confirmed that it will publish guidance to provide practical advice for employers to improve workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy and baby loss based on the following five principles:
- Raise awareness, in a thoughtful and sensitive way, about the need for pregnancy or baby loss to be recognised as part of workplace wellbeing.
- Create an open, inclusive and supportive culture to break down stigma and let employees know they will be supported.
- Develop an organisational framework to support employees. This should include implementing specific policies, which the report identified only just over a third of employers have in place.
- Manage absence and leave with compassion and flexibility.
- Equip line managers to support people with empathy and understanding so that they feel comfortable and capable to have sensitive conversations with team members.
Data Protection: ICO consults on monitoring at work draft guidance
On 12 October, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) opened a consultation on draft employment practices and published its draft guidance on monitoring at work. The guidance is open for consultation until 11 January 2023. The ICO is publishing its draft guidance on employment practices in stages with this being the first. It has also published an impact scoping document and plans to publish additional practical tools such as checklists.
The draft guidance covers key topics such as lawful basis for monitoring, transparency, fairness and accountability. It also provides guidance on DPIAs, security and retention as well as specialist topics such as covert monitoring, use of biometric data, call monitoring, dashcams and device activity.
This follows on from the ICO’s call for views in 2021. The ICO has published a summary of the responses to its call for views.
Working Practices: One third of employers expect a four-day week to be a reality within ten years
On 7 October 2022, the CIPD published a new report, The four-day week: Employer perspectives, which sets out employer perspectives on moving to a four-day week. The report is based on a survey which shows that 34% of respondent organisations consider that a four-day week for most workers is attainable within the next decade. One in ten respondents reported having already reduced working hours without cutting pay in the past five years (47% of those respondents confirmed the reductions were part of the COVID-19 furlough scheme). Many of the 2,000 employers surveyed felt that increased efficiency would be needed for a four-day week with no reduction in pay to be sustainable, either through organisations working smarter (66%) or the increased use of technology (68%).
The CIPD notes that the report is published amid rising interest in the concept of the four-day working week. A major trial in the UK, launched earlier this year, involves around 3,330 workers across 70 companies reducing their working week to four days with no loss of pay.
Despite the rising interest in adopting a four-day week, the report found that progress remains slow with just 1% of employers that have not already done so planning to reduce hours without lowering pay in the next three years. For organisations that have reduced working hours, the main drivers are improving employee wellbeing, helping with recruitment and retention, or a reduction in demand for products or services (36%, 30% and 32% of respondents respectively). The main challenges facing these organisations are that reduced hours do not suit everyone (32%), workers cannot achieve the same volume of work or output as before (30%), or a task requires someone to be present (26%).
A separate report, The four-day week: Scottish employer perspectives, has also been published.
IR35: Frustration from business groups over latest Chancellor’s backtracking over the repeal of the IR35 rules
People Management reported on 18 October 2022 that business groups are frustrated by new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has taken a u-turn from Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget where he had proposed repealing the IR35 off-payroll tax rules for contractors.
We reported in our September Employment Law General Update that the mini-budget had planned to repeal the 2017 and 2021 reforms from 6 April 2023. It wasn’t going to abolish IR35 but would have taken us back to the rules in place from 2000 (the Intermediaries Legislation), where the onus was on the worker to correctly assess their status and pay the correct amount of tax. However, our new Chancellor has backtracked on this meaning the situation remains the same that the end client remains responsible (and liable) for determining the IR35 status of contractors. The liability and responsibility is on the fee-paying party (often the recruiter) in the supply chain applying to public sector bodies, and medium and large private sector businesses. Small companies are exempt.
Industry experts are frustrated that the promised simplification of the tax rules is not being delivered and that many businesses had already started to undertake the vital work of how their systems would need to change by April 2023. Paul Farrer, founder and chairman of global recruitment agency Aspire, said that in turbulent times like this freelancers and contractors were needed for businesses to navigate peaks and troughs in demand. However, he called the recent IR35 news a “a backward step” – not just for workers, “but for the recruitment industry and businesses that rely heavily on the flexibility and skills of the independent workforce”. Other business leaders complain that this system is complex and poorly enforced, and badly needs proper reform. To read the whole article, see People Management.
Brexit: Government publishes guidance for UK regulators on Professional Qualifications Act 2022
The Professional Qualifications Act 2022 (PQA 2022) received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, revoking the EU rules relating to the recognition of professional qualifications in the UK.
Among other things, the PQA 2022 introduced a new framework for the recognition of UK professional qualifications between different parts of the UK and overseas. Under this framework, UK regulators have a duty to publish information about the requirements for individuals to enter and remain in their professions (section 8, PQA 2022). In addition, UK regulators must, on request, share information with regulators from other parts of the UK (section 9, PQA 2022) and overseas regulators (section 10, PQA 2022). These obligations apply from 28 October 2022.
On 4 October 2022, BEIS published the following documents to assist UK regulators to comply with these new obligations:
- Guidance on the obligation to publish qualification requirements under section 8 of the PQA 2022, setting out what information must be published, when the obligation applies and when published information should be updated.
- Two separate guidance documents explaining the information-sharing obligations under, respectively, section 9 and section 10 of the PQA 2022. These documents set out when the legal requirements under the relevant section apply and what information must be shared. They also each contain a worked example of what a UK regulator should do when it receives a valid request for information.
Discrimination: Research finds intent to be an ally often does not translate into action
One of the first studies into allyship in the UK workplace (published by Wates on 27 September 2022) has found that intent to support colleagues from underrepresented groups has not translated into action. The study of over 5,000 employees found that 67% of UK employees consider themselves an “ally“. However, only 36% have spoken up against discrimination or exclusion of a colleague from a minority background when they have seen it at work. Around two-fifths of respondents said that they had spent time educating themselves about the experience of minorities, although this figure was lower for senior executives.
The same research found that 40% of employees have experienced microaggressions related to identity. The figure rises to nearly 60% for LGBT employees and to 64% for respondents from Black Caribbean backgrounds. Microaggressions experienced by respondents include a name being mispronounced because it is “too hard” (60% of Black African respondents and 59% of Black Caribbean respondents) and a colleague being told that they “don’t even ‘look’ gay” (42% of men from the LGBT community). Respondents from minorities were more likely to report witnessing microaggressions or discrimination. Microaggressions or discrimination related to sexual orientation was reported by almost half of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents compared to 25% overall. Microaggressions or discrimination related to race or ethnicity were reported by 35% of respondents, rising to 62% of Black Caribbean respondents and 47% of Pakistani respondents.
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Employment Law Case Update – September 2022
Whilst strikes were temporarily abandoned in England as a mark of respect for the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral, the unions have not been resting. Several unions have started judicial review proceedings against the government in response to new regulations regarding the use of supply agency workers. The tribunals have been reviewing COVID-related employment issues, how far a belief in one’s football team can be stretched and protecting a woman’s right to a private life versus the rights of the claimant to a fair trial and freedom of expression. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has been considering the matter of confiscating earnings received by a CEO who got the job by lying about his experience.
- Strikes: Unions commence judicial review of regulations permitting supply of agency workers during strikes
- COVID-19: Two and a half weeks is not long enough for long COVID to become a disability
- COVID-19: Requirement for employees to exhaust holiday and TOIL before receiving further paid leave for COVID-related absences was not discriminatory
- Equality Act: Supporting a football club is not a protected philosophical belief
- Human Rights: EAT makes anonymity order to protect non-party and non-witness who was subject of false lurid sexual allegations
- Fraud: A confiscation order should strip the profit from fraudulently obtained employment
Strikes: Unions commence judicial review of regulations permitting supply of agency workers during strikes
Separate but similar judicial review proceedings have been issued by unions in response to new regulations that allow employment businesses to supply agency workers to replace striking staff.
The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/852) came into force on 21 July 2022 and have already resulted in a report by the TUC to the International Labour Organization over alleged infringement of workers’ rights to strike.
Unison issued proceedings in the High Court on 13 September 2022, arguing that the government’s decision is unfair and is based on unreliable and outdated evidence from a 2015 consultation. It also argues that the government has failed to consider Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which protects the right to freedom of association, and international labour standards on the right to strike.
On 20 September 2022, the TUC began similar proceedings in collaboration with 11 other unions, arguing that the Secretary of State failed to consult unions, in contravention with the Employment Agencies Act 1973, and that the regulations violate Article 11 of the ECHR. The teachers’ union, NASUWT, has also announced its intention to issue proceedings. The claims are all likely to be heard together.
A response is required from the Business Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, within 21 days of proceedings being issued.
COVID-19: Two and a half weeks is not long enough for long COVID to become a disability
In Quinn v Sense Scotland ETS/4111971/2021, an employment tribunal has determined that an employee who caught COVID-19 two and a half weeks before her dismissal did not have long COVID and was not disabled under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) at the relevant time.
Mrs Quinn was employed as Head of People. She tested positive for COVID-19 on or around 11 July 2021. She subsequently experienced fatigue, shortness of breath, pain and discomfort, headaches, and brain fog. These symptoms affected her everyday life and disrupted her sleep. She struggled with shopping and driving and stopped socialising and exercising. On 26 July, she contacted her GP to arrange an appointment. On 27 July, she was dismissed from her employment. She consulted with her GP on 2, 8 and 22 August, during which time she was deemed unfit to work due to ongoing symptomatic COVID-19. On 12 September, she was deemed unfit to work due to post-COVID-19 syndrome and diagnosed with long COVID.
Mrs Quinn brought a direct disability discrimination claim, among other claims. As a preliminary issue, a tribunal had to determine whether she was disabled at the time of her dismissal. She relied on the impairment of long COVID including having COVID-19 for longer than normal. She submitted that COVID-19 and long COVID are part of the same condition, and that other 50-year-old women with no underlying health conditions recovered more quickly than her after two weeks. Consequently, it could have been predicted that she would experience long COVID.
An employment tribunal found that she was not disabled under the EqA 2010 for the following reasons:
- At the time of her dismissal, she did not have long COVID. She was not diagnosed with long COVID until some six weeks later.
- While the impairment of COVID-19 had a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, this effect had lasted only two and a half weeks at the relevant time and was not long term.
- The substantial majority of people who catch COVID-19 do not develop long COVID. Accordingly, it cannot be said that the risk of developing long COVID “could well happen“.
Mrs Quinn’s case could be distinguished from that of Mr Burke, who had been absent from work with COVID-19 for nine months at the time of his dismissal.
COVID-19: Requirement for employees to exhaust holiday and TOIL before receiving further paid leave for COVID-related absences was not discriminatory
In Cowie and others v Scottish Fire and Rescue Service  EAT 121 , the EAT (Eady P) has held that it was not discriminatory for the fire service to require employees to have used up accrued holiday and time off in lieu (TOIL) before being eligible to apply for additional paid “special leave” to cover COVID-19 related absences.
Two groups of employees brought discrimination claims in relation to this requirement. One group alleged indirect sex discrimination under section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) and the other alleged discrimination arising from disability under section 15 of the EqA 2010.
The tribunal dismissed the section 19 claims because there was no evidence of group disadvantage to women. It upheld the section 15 claims, agreeing that the requirement to exhaust holiday and TOIL was unfavourable treatment. However, it did not award any compensation since there was no evidence of any injury to feelings. The claimants and the employer appealed to the EAT.
The EAT allowed the employer’s appeal. In relation to the section 15 claims, the tribunal had identified the relevant treatment as being the requirement to use up holiday and TOIL. However, this requirement only arose when the claimants sought access to paid special leave. It was wrong to separate the conditions applicable to the benefit from the benefit itself. The relevant treatment was therefore the granting of paid special leave. This was clearly favourable treatment. The treatment could have been more favourable if the conditions were removed, but it did not become unfavourable simply because it could, hypothetically, have been more favourable.
The same error arose in relation to the section 19 claims. The PCP was defined as the requirement to exhaust TOIL or annual leave. However, the PCP only operated in the context of the paid special leave policy. Since the provision of paid special leave was clearly favourable, the PCP could only amount to a disadvantage if the conditions of entitlement were artificially separated from the benefit itself.
The EAT therefore found that neither the section 15 nor the section 19 claims could succeed. Nevertheless, it considered and rejected the claimants’ grounds of appeal, finding that the tribunal had been entitled to conclude that there was not sufficient evidence:
- To show group disadvantage in the section 19 claims.
- To justify an award of compensation for injury to feelings in the section 15 claims.
Equality Act: Supporting a football club is not a protected philosophical belief
At a preliminary hearing in McClung v Doosan Babcock Ltd and others  UKET/4110538, an employment tribunal has held that supporting Rangers Football Club (Rangers) does not amount to a protected philosophical belief within the meaning of section 10(2) of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010).
Mr McClung had supported Rangers for 42 years, was a member of the club and received yearly birthday cards from them. He never missed a match and spent most of his discretionary income on attendance at games, as well as watching them on television. He believed supporting Rangers was a way of life and as important to him as attending church is for religious people.
The tribunal defined Mr McClung’s belief as being a supporter of Rangers but concluded that it was not capable of being a protected philosophical belief. While it was not in dispute that the belief was genuinely held, the tribunal concluded that the remaining Grainger criteria were not satisfied for the following reasons:
- The tribunal had regard to the explanatory notes to the EqA 2010 which provide that adherence to a football team would not be a belief capable of protection. The definition of “support” (being “actively interested in and concerned for the success of” a particular sports team) contrasted with the definition of “belief” (being “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof”). Mr McClung’s support for Rangers was akin to support for a political party, which case law had made clear does not constitute a protected philosophical belief.
- Support for a football club is akin to a lifestyle choice. It did not represent a belief as to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and had no larger consequences for humanity as a whole. There was a wide range of Rangers fans with varying reasons behind their support, shown in different ways.
- There was nothing to suggest fans had to behave, or did behave, in a similar way. Support for the Union and loyalty to the Queen were not prerequisites of being a Rangers supporter as Mr McClung had submitted. The only common factor was that fans wanted their team to do well. It therefore lacked the required characteristics of cogency, cohesion and importance.
- Support for Rangers did not invoke the same respect in a democratic society as matters such as ethical veganism or the governance of a country, which have been the subject of academic research and commentary.
Human Rights: EAT makes anonymity order to protect non-party and non-witness who was subject of false lurid sexual allegations
In Piepenbrock v London School of Economics and Political Science  EAT 119, the EAT has held that the identity of a non-party and non-witness (Ms D) was entitled to the benefit of an anonymity order. False lurid allegations of a sexual nature had been made against her, and not granting the order would lead to a substantial risk of her right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) being infringed. Moreover, there was a substantial risk that the claimant, Dr Piepenbrock, who had made the allegations against Ms D, would abuse the court system in a manner contrary to the interests of justice, which would have a serious detrimental effect on Ms D.
HHJ Shanks held that these considerations substantially outweighed the principle of open justice, Dr Piepenbrock’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR and his right to freedom of expression under Article 10, as well as other parties’ rights under Article 10, including the press. Granting the order sought would not seriously impact these rights and principles, as it would remain open to anyone to describe the case in all its detail, save for the identity of Ms D. The fact that the central allegation against Ms D was lurid and found to be untrue substantially reduced the weight to be accorded to the Article 10 rights at play.
The EAT granted an indefinite order protecting Ms D’s identity from becoming public and maintaining Ms D’s anonymity in an earlier EAT judgment. The order also limited access to documents lodged with the EAT and prevented Dr Piepenbrock or anyone else from disclosing Ms D’s identity. This case serves to highlight the EAT’s power to act to protect individuals’ rights under the ECHR, even where there is no express rule of procedure in the EAT Rules to that effect.
Fraud: A confiscation order should strip the profit from fraudulently obtained employment
In R v Andrewes  UKSC 24, the appellant obtained a CEO position, falsely claiming he had qualifications and relevant experience. He was appointed in December 2004 and remained in post until March 2015. He would not have been appointed had the true position been known. During his time as CEO, he was regularly appraised as either strong or outstanding.
In January 2017, he pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and two counts of fraud. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and the Crown sought a confiscation order against him. His net earnings during the relevant period were £643,602.91. The available amount was agreed to be £96,737.24, and the judge ordered confiscation of that sum. The Court of Appeal allowed the appellant’s appeal and made no confiscation order, holding that to impose such would be disproportionate. The Crown appealed to the Supreme Court.
Appeal allowed, and confiscation order restored, albeit for different reasons:
- It would be disproportionate to make a confiscation order of the full net earnings as not making any deduction for the value of the services rendered would amount to a further penalty.
- The legal burden of proof in respect of section 6(5) is on the prosecution who must establish that it would not be disproportionate to require the defendant to pay the recoverable amount.
- When considering proportionality, the court should seek to confiscate the difference between the higher earnings obtained through fraud and the lower earnings that would have been obtained if there had been no fraud. This approach takes away the profit made by the fraud.
- The Court held a confiscation order of £244,568 would be proportionate as this represented the 38% difference between his pre-appointment earnings (£54,000 gross) and his post appointment income (£75,000 gross and £643,000 over the course of his fraudulently obtained employment). The recoverable amount was still £96,737.24.
This decision comes across as the kind of compromise more suited to civil litigation than confiscation. The court correctly distinguishes between a job that would have resulted in illegal performance, but acknowledges the appellant stood no chance of getting the job without the falsification of his qualifications. The court was explicit as to its justification for this pragmatic approach, “This is to adopt a principled ‘middle way’ in contrast to either a ‘take all’ approach or a ‘take nothing’ approach“. One wonders if this apparently principled approach will actually lead to fewer appeals on the issue of proportionality in such CV type cases.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment Law Case Update – July 2022
This month we look at the saga of the ‘fire and rehire’ issue affecting Tesco employees and how whistleblowers can be fairly dismissed depending on their conduct. We also have two interesting cases about how direct discrimination can be viewed – the doctor who refused to address transgender people by their chosen pronouns who had not been discriminated against versus the feminist who expressed beliefs which could not be objected to (as core beliefs) even though they were capable of causing offence, and was discriminated against.
- Fire and Rehire: Court of Appeal overturns injunction restraining termination and re-engagement of Tesco employees
- Whistleblowing: Whistleblower’s dismissal not automatically unfair as decision-makers’ view of conduct when making protected disclosures separable from content or fact of disclosures
- Direct Discrimination: EAT upholds tribunal decision that Christian doctor was not discriminated against for refusing to address transgender people by their chosen pronoun
- Direct Discrimination: Gender critical feminist suffered direct discrimination for expressing her beliefs in a manner that was not “objectively offensive”
Fire and Rehire: Court of Appeal overturns injunction restraining termination and re-engagement of Tesco employees
In USDAW and others v Tesco Stores Ltd  EWHC 201, the Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s injunction restraining Tesco from dismissing and re-engaging a group of warehouse operatives to remove a contractual pay enhancement known as “Retained Pay“. This had been incorporated through collective bargaining with the trade union USDAW as a retention incentive during a reorganisation. The collective agreement 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.
The High Court had found that there was an implied term not to use termination and re-engagement as a means of removing Retained Pay. However, the Court of Appeal held that such an implied term was not justified. Neither could the employees rely on promissory estoppel since there had been no unequivocal promises related to termination. Furthermore, it was not “unconscionable” to remove a benefit that the employees had already received for over a decade and that far exceeded any redundancy payment to which they would have been entitled had they not accepted the Retained Pay.
In any event, even if there had been a breach, the court held that the injunction was not justified. The court was not aware of any previous cases in which a final injunction had been granted to prevent a private sector employer from dismissing an employee for an indefinite period. Moreover, the terms of the injunction had not been sufficiently clear.
Whistleblowing: Whistleblower’s dismissal not automatically unfair as decision-makers’ view of conduct when making protected disclosures separable from content or fact of disclosures
In Kong v Gulf International Bank (UK) Ltd  EWCA Civ 941, the Court of Appeal has upheld the EAT’s decision that an employment tribunal directed itself properly on the issue of the separability of the protected disclosures made by an employee and the reason in the minds of the decision-makers for her dismissal. The tribunal had properly considered and applied the guidance on the issue set out in authorities such as Martin v Devonshire Solicitors UKEAT/0086/10 and NHS Manchester v Fecitt and others  IRLR 64. Despite the fact that the tribunal had found that the employee’s conduct when making the protected disclosures had been broadly reasonable and she had not, as alleged, questioned her colleague’s professional integrity, her dismissal was not automatically unfair because the decision-makers believed that she had acted unreasonably. The reason for dismissal in the minds of the decision-makers could be properly separable from the fact of the protected disclosures being made. The court rejected the submissions of Protect as intervenor that an employee’s conduct in making a disclosure should only be properly considered separable from the making of a protected disclosure where that conduct constitutes wholly unreasonable behaviour or serious misconduct.
This decision makes it clear that even where a worker’s conduct is not objectively unreasonable when they make a protected disclosure, their employer may escape liability when it treats them detrimentally or dismisses them because it subjectively believes that the manner in which they made the disclosures was unreasonable. However, the court stressed that particularly close scrutiny of an employer’s reasons for treating them detrimentally would be needed in such a case to ensure that the real reason for adverse treatment was not the protected disclosure itself.
It is understood that the employee is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Direct Discrimination: EAT upholds tribunal decision that Christian doctor was not discriminated against for refusing to address transgender people by their chosen pronoun
In Mackereth v DWP  EAT 99, the EAT has held that a tribunal did not err in dismissing a Christian doctor’s claims of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and harassment on grounds of religion or belief because of his refusal to address transgender service users by their chosen pronouns. He relied on his particular beliefs in the supremacy of Genesis 1:27 that a person cannot change their sex/gender at will, his lack of belief in what he described as “transgenderism” and his conscientious objection to “transgenderism“. However, Eady P, sitting with lay members, found that the tribunal had erred in several respects when applying the criteria from Grainger Plc v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09 to determine whether these beliefs were capable of protection under section 4 of the Equality Act 2010. In particular, the tribunal had erred in holding that the beliefs were not worthy of respect in a democratic society. This threshold must be set at a low level so as to allow for the protection not just of beliefs acceptable to the majority, but also of minority beliefs that might cause offence (approving Forstater v CGD Europe UKEAT/0105/20).
The tribunal had been entitled to find in the alternative that the direct discrimination and harassment claims were not made out. It was permissible to draw a distinction between Dr Mackereth’s beliefs and the way he manifested them, finding that any employee not prepared to utilise a service user’s chosen pronoun would have been treated the same way.
The tribunal had also been entitled to reject the indirect discrimination claim. In holding that the PCPs were necessary and proportionate, it carefully considered the lack of practical alternatives to face-to-face contact with service users. In noting that Dr Mackereth had not identified any further alternatives, over and above those considered and discounted by his employer, this did not amount to the imposition of the burden of proof on him.
Direct Discrimination: Gender critical feminist suffered direct discrimination for expressing her beliefs in a manner that was not “objectively offensive”
In Forstater v CGD Europe and others ET/22200909/2019, an employment tribunal has upheld a claim of direct discrimination on ground of belief, where an individual’s contract was not renewed because she had expressed gender critical beliefs which some colleagues found offensive. This follows an earlier EAT judgment in which her gender critical beliefs had been held to be protected as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. They included the belief that a person’s sex is an immutable biological fact, not a feeling or an identity, and that a trans woman is not in reality a woman. The claimant had described a prominent gender-fluid individual as a “part-time cross dresser” and a “man in heels” who should not have accepted an accolade intended for female executives. She had also left a gender critical campaign booklet in the office (which she later apologised for) and posted a campaign video on twitter containing ominous music and imagery, which argued that gender self-ID put women and girls at greater risk.
The respondents argued that it was the way in which the claimant had expressed her beliefs, and not the fact that she held them, that had been the reason for non-renewal. The tribunal held, following earlier case law, that the way in which a belief is manifested is only dissociable from the belief itself where it is done in a manner which is inappropriate or to which objection can reasonably be taken, bearing in mind an individual’s qualified right to manifest their belief under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In this case, the claimant’s tweets and other communications were little more than an assertion of the core protected belief (which could not be objected to even though it was capable of causing offence). In some cases the claimant had been provocative or mocking but this was the “common currency of debate” and was not objectively offensive or unreasonable.
The claimant had also been victimised when her profile was taken off the respondent’s website after she talked to The Sunday Times about her discrimination case. However, her claims of indirect discrimination and harassment were dismissed.
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Employment Law Case Update – June 2022
A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month including insights on dismissal cases, using without prejudice letters and when injunctive relief may be sought to enforce a non-compete clause. We also have an interesting case on ethical veganism v legality of actions.
- Equality Act: Ethical veganism encompassing an obligation to break the law to relieve animal suffering was not a protected belief
- Unfair Dismissal: Statutory cap should be applied to unfair dismissal compensation after deduction of earlier payments made to employee
- Constructive Dismissal: Fundamental breach possible even where employer’s actions do not suggest intention to end employment relationship
- Dismissal: ACAS code applied to discriminatory sham redundancy dismissal
- Injunctive Relief: Interim enforcement of non-compete clauses
- Without Prejudice: Without prejudice letter inadmissible despite exaggerated allegations
Equality Act: Ethical veganism encompassing an obligation to break the law to relieve animal suffering was not a protected belief
In Free Miles v The Royal Veterinary College ET/2206733/2020, an employment tribunal has found that a belief in ethical veganism encompassing an obligation to break the law to relieve animal suffering did not amount to a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010).
Ms Free Miles was a veterinary nurse employed by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). In February 2019, she was arrested by police in connection with alleged burglaries by the Animal Liberation Front. The police found a sick turkey at her flat which she said she had rescued. Following her arrest, Ms Free Miles was summarily dismissed by RVC for reasons including that RVC believed she was connected with an animal rights group that endorsed law breaking and that she had participated in activities including trespass and theft.
Ms Free Miles brought an employment tribunal claim against RVC for, among other things, direct and indirect philosophical belief discrimination. She relied on her belief in ethical veganism, arguing that this belief included a moral obligation to take positive action to reduce animal suffering, including trespass on property and removal of animals. By the time of the tribunal hearing, Ms Free Miles had been charged by the police with criminal offences relating to animal rights activities.
The tribunal stated that, had Ms Free Miles’ belief in ethical veganism been limited to the belief that humans should not eat, wear, use for sport, experiment on or profit from animals, it would have had no reservation in concluding that it amounted to a philosophical belief under section 10 of the EqA 2010. It also said that it might have reached the same conclusion had the moral obligation to take positive action to reduce or prevent animal suffering been limited to lawful action.
However, Ms Free Miles’ belief included trespassing on private property and acting in contravention of the law. The tribunal concluded that a belief to take actions that are unlawful and to interfere with the property rights of others could not be worthy of respect in a democratic society, so did not satisfy the fifth element of the test in Grainger Plc v Nicholson  2 All ER 253. Laws were made by democratically elected representatives and had to be obeyed by all citizens. It was not open to individuals to decide which laws to obey and disobey. Ms Free Miles’ discrimination claims therefore failed.
Unfair Dismissal: Statutory cap should be applied to unfair dismissal compensation after deduction of earlier payments made to employee
In Dafiaghor-Olomu v Community Integrated Care  EAT 84, the EAT has held that any payments made by an employer to an employee in respect of an unfair dismissal claim must be deducted from the total compensation sum before the statutory cap is applied.
Mrs Dafiaghor-Olomu won an unfair dismissal claim against Community Integrated Care (CIC). She sought re-engagement and compensation. The tribunal refused re-engagement but awarded £46,153.55 in compensation which CIC paid in full. At a second remedies hearing following a successful appeal, the tribunal increased the compensatory award to £128,961.59. The EAT was required to determine whether the statutory cap should be applied after the earlier payment made by CIC was deducted from the sum of £128,961.59 (leaving an outstanding payment of £74,200, being the amount of the statutory cap in place at the relevant time) or whether the statutory cap should be applied to the total award before the earlier payment was deducted (leaving an outstanding payment of £28,046.45). CIC argued for the latter approach, stating that the former would mean it got no credit for the earlier payment and would be penalised for complying with the tribunal’s original order.
The EAT considered the wording of section 124(5) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. It felt that this showed that Parliament’s intention was for the tribunal to calculate the total compensation due to the employee and then subtract from it any earlier payments made by the employer before applying the cap. However, in reaching this conclusion, the EAT expressed considerable sympathy with CIC. In paying the original compensatory award, CIC had complied with what it perceived to be its duty. Had it foreseen the possibility that the tribunal would increase the award at the second remedies hearing, it would probably have declined to make any payment until the compensatory order was final. Instead, it ended up owing £74,200 plus £46,153.55 instead of just £74,200.
Additionally, the EAT upheld the employment tribunal’s decision not to reconsider its refusal to award re-engagement after the second remedies hearing on the basis that such an order was impracticable because of Mrs Dafiaghor-Olomu’s attitude towards which jobs were suitable for her. It also dismissed a cross appeal in which CIC argued that the employment tribunal had not been entitled to increase the compensatory award at the second remedies hearing.
Constructive Dismissal: Fundamental breach possible even where employer’s actions do not suggest intention to end employment relationship
In Singh v Metroline West Ltd  EAT 80 the EAT has held that, in a constructive dismissal claim, a fundamental breach of contract can be established even where the employer’s actions do not indicate an intention to end the employment relationship.
Mr Singh was invited to a disciplinary hearing by Metroline West Ltd. The next day, Mr Singh was signed off sick by his doctor. While absent, he was examined by occupational health who did not suggest his sickness was not genuine. However, Metroline believed that Mr Singh was trying to avoid the disciplinary hearing. It therefore paid him statutory sick pay only, instead of company sick pay. Mr Singh brought a claim for constructive dismissal, alleging, among other things, that the failure to pay him company sick pay was a fundamental breach of contract.
The employment tribunal found that Metroline had contractual power to suspend Mr Singh without pay if it thought his absence was not genuine, but this power had not been exercised. Separately, Mr Singh’s contract allowed company sick pay to be withheld where, after investigation, absence was found not to be genuine. There was no investigation in this case and no other relevant contractual grounds on which company sick pay could be withheld. There was therefore a breach of contract. However, the tribunal found the breach was not fundamental. By withholding pay, Metroline had not indicated an intention not to be bound by the employment relationship; rather, its aim in withholding pay was to encourage Mr Singh’s participation in a disciplinary process integral to that relationship.
However, the EAT upheld Mr Singh’s appeal on this issue. It was an error of law for the tribunal to adopt the approach that, for the breach of contract to be fundamental, there must have been an intention by the employer not to be bound by the contract in a manner that meant that it no longer wished to continue with the employment relationship. What is required is that the employer demonstrates an intention to no longer comply with the terms of the contract that is so serious that it goes to the root of the contract. In this case, there was a deliberate decision to withhold pay to which Mr Singh was entitled, resulting in a significant reduction in earnings, in circumstances where there were other contractual provisions which would have allowed Metroline to deal with suspicions about his absence. This was a fundamental breach.
Dismissal: ACAS code applied to discriminatory sham redundancy dismissal
In Rentplus UK Ltd v Coulson  EAT 81 the EAT has held that the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (ACAS Code) applied to a discriminatory dismissal purportedly by reason of redundancy. The tribunal had not erred in awarding the maximum 25% uplift available for failure to follow the ACAS Code.
The employer’s ground of appeal that the ACAS Code could not apply where their reason for dismissal was redundancy and the reason found by the tribunal was sex discrimination failed. This was because the tribunal had rejected redundancy as the reason for the dismissal and the upholding of the sex discrimination claim did not mean that it was the only reason for the dismissal. The EAT considered it was implicit in the tribunal’s reasoning that the claimant was in a “disciplinary situation” to which the ACAS Code applied, this being that she was dismissed due to dissatisfaction with her personally and/or her performance, which was tainted by sex discrimination, and a fair capability or disciplinary procedure should therefore have applied.
It was clear that the tribunal had concluded the dismissal process was a sham and there had been a total failure to comply with the ACAS Code. The breach was referred to as “egregious” and so was beyond unreasonable. While, generally, a tribunal should identify the employer’s failings for which an uplift is being made by reference to the relevant part of the ACAS Code which the employer is said to be in breach of, in this case the tribunal had concluded that the employer had acted in bad faith such that there was a total failure to apply any of the protections provided for by the ACAS Code. In these circumstances, there was no error of law in the award of an uplift of 25%.
The EAT provided guidance in the form of questions that tribunals considering an ACAS uplift should apply:
- Is the claim one which raises a matter to which the ACAS Code applies?
- Has there been a failure to comply with the ACAS Code in relation to that matter?
- Was the failure to comply with the ACAS Code unreasonable?
- Is it just and equitable to award an uplift because of the failure to comply with the ACAS Code and, if so, by what percentage, up to 25%?
Injunctive Relief: Interim enforcement of non-compete clauses
In Planon Ltd v Gilligan  EWCA Civ 642 the Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal from the High Court’s refusal to grant an interim injunction to enforce a non-compete clause.
The High Court had held that the delay between the initial exchanges of correspondence between the parties and the application being heard was not the sort of delay that would disqualify the employer from interim injunctive relief. However, the employer’s prospects of success at trial in enforcing the non-compete clause were not that good, the critical point being the non-compete clause was likely to prevent the employee from being able to work in his field for 12 months. Damages would not, or might not, be an adequate remedy for either the employer or employee in this case.
While the Court of Appeal dismissed the employer’s appeal, its reasoning differed from that of the High Court. It held that the High Court had not taken the correct approach when considering whether the non-compete clause was reasonable. However, in view of the delay by the time the matter came before it, the court did not consider it appropriate to express a preliminary view about the enforceability of the clause.
The court considered the effect of delay in the case. There was a divergence of opinion between Elisabeth Laing LJ and Bean LJ, with Nugee LJ expressing no view, on the effect of the delay between the facts becoming known to the employer and the High Court hearing. Elisabeth Laing LJ considered that the judge had reached a decision open to him on the facts while Bean LJ considered that the judge would have been entitled to refuse an injunction on the ground of delay. The court noted that there was no rule of law to the effect that damages would be an adequate remedy for the employee (if it was found that at trial that a restrictive covenant is unenforceable). Bean LJ suggested that, except in cases of very wealthy defendants, or where a claimant employer is offering paid garden leave for the whole period of the restraint, it was unrealistic to argue that damages would be an adequate remedy.
Without Prejudice: Without prejudice letter inadmissible despite exaggerated allegations
In Swiss Re Corporate Solutions Ltd v Sommer  EAT 78 the EAT has held that an employment judge erred when holding that a without prejudice letter could be admitted into evidence under the “unambiguous impropriety” exception to the without prejudice rule in proceedings brought by an employee against her former employer. The without prejudice rule prevents statements made (whether in writing or orally) in a genuine attempt to settle an existing dispute from being put before the court as evidence of admissions against the interest of the party that made them.
The letter referred to the employee’s actions in having copied three emails to her personal email address when sending them to her employer in pursuit of a grievance. The emails had contained personal data and matters confidential to the employer and its clients. Before offering to settle her complaints by way of termination of her employment and payment of compensation, the letter alleged that the employee’s actions breached the confidentiality obligations in her employment contract, were a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act 2018 and meant that she had acted, or might have acted, without integrity in breach of Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rules. This could result in summary dismissal, criminal convictions, fines and FCA findings which could make it difficult for her to work again in the regulated sector.
In holding that the unambiguous impropriety exception applied, the employment judge found that there had been no basis at all for the employer’s assertion that the employee’s actions amounted to serious misconduct and that the severity of what she had done had been grossly exaggerated in order to put pressure on her to accept the termination of her employment.
The EAT held that the employment judge had erred in finding there was no basis at all for the allegations of serious misconduct. It considered that the high threshold for unambiguous impropriety could be met in circumstances in which a party made exaggerated allegations although it was unaware of any decided case on this point. However, exaggeration would not usually pass the threshold without findings as to the guilty party’s state of mind. The employment judge did not make such findings, and the EAT doubted that this could have validly been done at a preliminary hearing without oral evidence. The only possible outcome in this case was that the without prejudice letter was inadmissible in evidence.
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