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Employment Law General Update – February 2024

Employment Law

Welcome to our February employment law updates covering issues such as: the EHRC’s guidance on menopause in the workplace under the Equality Act, the National Minimum Wage sees latest amendments, over 500 companies are named and shamed for wage non-compliance. Discussions around ‘fire and rehire’ practices intensify, and updates on Skilled Worker and Family Immigration are announced, including changes limiting careworkers’ dependents and ending the Ukraine Family Scheme. Stay informed as we navigate these key developments.

  • Equality Act: EHRC issues menopause in the workplace guidance for employers
  • Pay: National Minimum Wage (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2024
  • Pay: 500+ companies named and shamed for not paying National Minimum Wage
  • Fire and Rehire: DBT publishes response to consultation on code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement
  • Immigration: Dates announced on Skilled Worker and Family Immigration
  • Immigration: Statement of Changes HC 556 stops careworkers from bringing dependants and ends Ukraine Family Scheme

Equality Act: EHRC issues menopause in the workplace guidance for employers

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has issued new guidance on menopause in the workplace, setting out employer’s legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010. The new guidance aims to clarify these obligations and provide practical tips for employers on making reasonable adjustments and fostering positive conversations about the menopause. If menopause symptoms have a long term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, they may be considered a disability. Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer will be under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments and to not discriminate against the worker. Additionally, workers experiencing menopause symptoms may be protected from less favourable treatment related to their symptoms on the grounds of age and sex.

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Pay: National Minimum Wage (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2024

The draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2024, which are due to come into force on 1 April 2024:

  • abolish the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are aged 21 or over (but are not yet aged 23 years) so that workers aged 21 or over will now qualify for the national living wage, rather than a lower national minimum wage rate;
  • increase the rate of the national living wage for workers who are aged 21 or over from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour;
  • increase the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are aged 18 or over (but not yet aged 21) from £7.49 to £8.60 per hour;
  • increase the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are under the age of 18 from £5.28 to £6.40 per hour;
  • increase the apprenticeship rate for workers within SI 2015/621, reg 5(1)(a), (b), from £5.28 to £6.40 per hour;
  • increase the accommodation offset amount which is applicable where any employer provides a worker with living accommodation from £9.10 to £9.99 for each day that accommodation is provided.

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Pay: 500+ companies named and shamed for not paying National Minimum Wage

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has named more than 500 companies for not paying national minimum wage to over 172,000 employees. Defaulting employers have been ordered to repay these workers almost £16m to backfill these breaches. This is the 20th list to be published by the government since the introduction of the naming scheme in 2013 under which it publicly ‘names and shames’ employers who fail to pay the minimum wage. The ‘naming and shaming’ scheme was paused from July 2018 until it recommenced in February 2020 in a revised form.

Employers named include major high street brands, including Estee Lauder, Easyjet, Greggs, Wickes and River Island. One employer, Staffline Recruitment Ltd, failed to pay £5,125,270.93 to 36,767 workers.

The businesses named have since paid back what they owe to their staff and have also faced financial penalties of up to 200% of their underpayment. The investigations by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) concluded between 2015 and 2023.

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Fire and Rehire: DBT publishes response to consultation on code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement

The Department for Business and Trade has published a response to the consultation on a draft statutory code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement. The consultation lasted from 24 January 2023 to 18 April 2023 and considered the action to be taken by employers when considering whether to dismiss and re-engage employees. As a result of the consultation, the government has made a number of changes to the draft code.

Changes to the code include:

  • a change to the sequencing of the code to ensure the sections on information sharing and consultation appear earlier;
  • the separate lists of information for employers to share located at paragraphs 25 and 33 have been combined;
  • the requirement for employers to conduct a full re-assessment of plans after information sharing and consultation;
  • changing the obligation to phase in changes to ‘best practice’;
  • a reduction in the length of the code and amendments to make it clearer and less technical;
  • a greater requirement on employers contacting ACAS prior to dismissal and re-engagement.

The full response can be found here.

The explanatory memorandum can be found here.

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Immigration: Dates announced on Skilled Worker and Family Immigration

The Minister of State for Legal Migration and the Border, Tom Pursglove MP, has made a Statement to the House of Commons giving more details of the timeline for various aspects of the five-point legal migration plan relating to the Skilled Worker and family migration routes. In terms of new announcements, he confirmed that there will be two sets of Statements of Changes in Immigration Rules, issued on 19 February 2024 and 14 March 2024, and the dates that the changes will come into force for these purposes.

The 19th February 2024 Immigration Rules will come into force on 11 March 2024 and will:

  • remove the right for care workers and senior care workers to bring dependants
  • ensure that care providers in England will only be able to sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The 14 March 2024 Immigration Rules will:

  • raise the Skilled Worker general salary threshold from £26,000 to £38,000 (with some exceptions) from 4 April 2024, and remove the 20% going rate discount for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List (being renamed the Immigration Salary List), as well as temporarily add any occupations as recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee to the new Immigration Salary List
  • raise the minimum income threshold from 11 April 2024 from £18,600 to £29,000 (in due course it will be raised to £34,300 and then £38,700).

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Immigration: Statement of Changes HC 556 stops careworkers from bringing dependants and ends Ukraine Family Scheme

The Home Office has issued a new Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 556, along with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM). The Statement makes anticipated changes as regards the dependants of careworkers and senior careworkers in the Skilled Worker/Health and Care visa route, and also makes a number of surprise and immediate changes to the Ukraine Schemes, including ending the Ukraine Family Scheme from 3pm on the 19th February 2024.

Skilled Worker/Health and care visa route

The Statement implements the first part of the Home Secretary’s ‘Five-point plan for Legal Migration’, which seeks to reduce net migration, and removes the possibility for dependent partners and children to apply in the Skilled Worker/Health and Care visa route where the main applicant is applying in, or has leave in either Standard Occupational Code (SOC) codes 6145 (Care worker) or 6148 (Senior care worker). The change will not apply for dependants where the main applicant already has leave in Skilled Worker in either SOC code, or applied for entry clearance or leave in the route on or before 11 March 2024 (and also will not apply where such a main applicant subsequently applies to extend or change employer in either SOC code, or applies for settlement). It will also not apply for children born in the UK.

In addition, sponsors of persons initially applying in either SOC code on or after 11 March 2024 will be required to have Care Quality Commission (CQC) registration and to be currently carrying out a regulated activity. Similar transitional provisions apply as above for further applications by persons who were granted leave under the Rules on or before 10 March 2024 as regards working for a sponsor which does not meet the new requirements.

These changes are effected via amendments to Appendix Skilled Worker, Appendix Skilled Occupations and Appendix Shortage Occupation List of the Immigration Rules. They come into force for applications submitted on and after 11 March 2024. The EM states that the changes are being made ‘in response to high levels of non-compliance and worker exploitation and abuse, as well as unsustainable levels of demand’. It goes on to say that ‘in the year ending September 2023, 83,072 visas were granted for care workers and a further 18,244 visas for senior care workers, comprising 30% of all work visas granted. In addition, there were 250,297 visas granted for work-related dependants, 69% of which were for Health and Care Worker dependants.’

Ukraine Schemes

Closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme

The Statement announces the closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme from 3pm on 19 February 2024. The Ukraine Family Scheme allowed British nationals and those with a qualifying immigration status to sponsor family members. This included immediate and extended family members, as well as the immediate family members of extended family members (e.g. a British national could sponsor a cousin and their children).

Going forwards many people who could have applied under the Ukraine Family Scheme will have to apply under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme instead. This requires an offer of six months accommodation, assessed as suitable by the local authority.

Persons impacted by this change may need advice on alternative immigration options, such as making a human rights claim to join family in the UK.

Reduction in period of leave to 18 months

Ukraine Scheme visa-holders have been receiving three years leave. From 3pm on 19 February 2024 a positive grant of leave will only result in 18 months leave to remain, rather than three years leave. This affects persons who applied before the change in the law and have not yet received a decision on their case.

A limited exception is for unaccompanied minors, who will still receive three years leave, so long as they made their initial hosting application before 3pm on 19 February 2024, even if the local authority check takes place later. Unaccompanied minors who apply after that date will still only receive 18 months leave.

Extension scheme to close on 16 May 2024 except for some children born in the UK

The Ukraine Extension Scheme allows Ukrainians with a time-limited visa in the UK to switch into the Ukraine Scheme, recognising that Ukrainians cannot be expected to return to Ukraine. The deadline to apply has been changed, but it appears that there are currently no plans to increase the 16 May 2024 deadline for the Scheme. This will mean that Ukrainians on other visas, including visit, student, seasonal worker and family visas, will no longer be able to switch into the Ukraine Extension Scheme from that date.

The Statement creates an exception to the closure of the Ukraine Extension Scheme for children born in the UK to a parent who has leave under the Ukraine Scheme. This will come into force on 11 March 2024. The children will receive leave in line with their parent (or if both parents are here, in line with whichever parent’s leave expires last). Such children have been using this scheme informally already, but it is helpful to see a provision in the Rules. Unfortunately, the new provision is silent on what children born outside the UK to a parent with a Ukraine Scheme visa should do.

Additional grounds for refusal

Part 9 of the Immigration Rules sets out general grounds for refusal of immigration applications on character grounds. Only some of those criteria have so far applies to Ukraine Scheme applications and mainly those focused on criminality. The Statement provides that from 3pm on 19 February 2024 additional grounds for refusal will apply, including previous breaches of immigration laws, failures to provide information when required and other general grounds for refusing entry clearance or cancelling permission on arrival. Anecdotally, there have been some cases of arrivals from Ukraine who do not have the right documentation and so this may be a response to that. This does however indicate a tightening up of visa controls for Ukrainians.

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Further Information:

If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: hello@dixcartuk.com


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The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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Employment Law Case Update – July 2022

Employment Law

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 [2022] 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.  

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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 [2022] 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 [2012] 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.  

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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 [2022] 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.

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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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Further Information:

If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: hello@dixcartuk.com


Back

The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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