Employment Law General Update – May 2023
This month’s news provides an update on the effect of the Retained EU Law Bill and the scrapping of the sunset clause, a new smart regulation from the DBT, a report on the post-pandemic economic growth in the UK labour markets, new guidance from ACAS on both managing stress at work and making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work, a new podcast from the HSE to support disabled people in the workplace and a consultation from the EBA on the benchmarking of diversity practices. Lastly, we have the results of research carried out on unfair treatment of parents following fertility treatment.
- Brexit: Government scraps the proposed sunset clause from the Retained EU Law Bill and Minister confirms effect of the Bill on equality and employment rights
- Employment Law: Department for Business and Trade – Smart regulation unveiled to cut red tape and grow the economy
- Flexible Working: House of Commons Committee report on post-pandemic economic growth in UK labour markets
- Health at Work: ACAS publishes new guidance on managing stress at work and making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work
- Disability: HSE launches podcast to support disabled people in the workplace
- Diversity: EBA publishes consultation on guidance on benchmarking of diversity practices
- Sex Discrimination: Research reveals unfair treatment at work after fertility treatment
Brexit: Government scraps the proposed sunset clause from the Retained EU Law Bill and Minister confirms effect of the Bill on equality and employment rights
On 10 May 2023, the government announced that it will scrap the proposed sunset clause from the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. As we have previously reported in our Employment Law News, the sunset clause would have meant that most retained EU law in secondary legislation would have been revoked at the end of 2023. Instead at least 600 pieces of retained EU law will be set out in a revocation schedule, which can be found here. Any laws not listed in the revocation schedule will be retained automatically.
Meanwhile, the Department for Business and Trade has published a response to a letter by the Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, requesting further explanation about the Retained EU Law Bill’s effect on equality rights and protections. The response by the Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP, Minister for Women & Equalities, confirms that the Retained EU Law Bill does not intend to undermine equality rights and protections, employment rights or maternity rights in the UK. It sets out that most equality protections will remain unaffected, as they are provided for in primary legislation, in particular the Equality Act 2010 (to which no changes are expected because of the Bill) and any relevant secondary legislation and additional instruments will be considered.
It also highlights that where additional provision is required, the Bill enables the UK Government and the devolved governments to protect the rights and protections of UK citizens. This includes a restatement power which allows departments to codify rights into domestic legislation. The response emphasises that this power will secure rights and protections, by laying them out accessibly and clearly in statute.
The response sets out that the government does not intend to amend workers’ legal rights through the Bill, that the UK provides for greater protections for workers than are required by EU law and that the government remains committed to making sure that workers are properly protected in the workplace.
The response emphasises that the repeal of maternity rights is not and has never been government policy, and that the UK is in fact further along than the EU when it comes to maternity rights.
Employment Law: Government’s “Smart regulation unveiled to cut red tape and grow the economy”
On the 10 May 2023 the Department for Business and Trade published its paper “Smarter regulation unveiled to cut red tape and grow the economy” which the government describes as “the first dynamic package of deregulatory reforms to grow the economy, cut costs for businesses and support consumers …”
The governments announcements include the following proposed amendments to employment law:
- The government is proposing to remove retained EU case law that requires employers to record working hours for almost all.
- Making rolled-up holiday pay lawful. Rolled up holiday pay is where an employer includes a sum representing holiday pay in an enhanced hourly rate rather than continuing to pay workers as normal when they actually take leave. This was ruled to be in breach of the Working Time Directive by the ECJ well over a decade ago.
- The merger of annual leave (20 days derived from the EU’s Working Time Directive) and additional leave (being the additional 8 days holiday provided under the Working Time Regulations). Whilst this appears to be sensible it will be interesting to see how the European case law which specifically applies to the 20 days annual leave, such as what constitutes holiday pay and taking such holiday in the year in which it falls, is dealt with.
- TUPE – there are proposals to do away with the need for elections of employee representatives for businesses with fewer than 50 employees or transfers of fewer than 10 employees.
The government has launched consultation on these points.
The government has also proposed limiting the length of non-compete clauses to three months. This will require the passing of legislation, which, the government says will be dealt with when parliamentary time allows.
So we wait to see exactly what legislative changes come about following these announcements.
Flexible Working: House of Commons Committee report on post-pandemic economic growth in UK labour markets
A House of Commons Committee report says the government must reconsider the need for an Employment Bill in the upcoming King’s Speech to address gaps in employment protections. The government has two months to respond to the committee’s proposals which are on topics including the machinery of government with responsibility for labour market policy; technology and skills development; workers’ rights and protection; and older workers.
The report, which follows on from a Call for Evidence on the state of play in the UK Labour market post-Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights that:
- with 500,000 people having left the British workforce since the start of the pandemic, a shortage of labour weighs heavily on the potential for economic growth;
- economic inactivity has risen among people aged 50 to 64 years;
- the way in which the recommendations of the Taylor Review have been implemented has been fragmented and drawn-out;
- the enforcement of labour market rules is under-resourced.
It calls on the government to:
- consider establishing a Ministry of Labour and appoint a new Minister of State for Labour in the Cabinet, as well as a Cabinet Committee on Labour;
- take various actions in respect of technology and skills;
- reconsider the need for an Employment Bill in the upcoming King’s Speech to address gaps in employment protections;
- consider new legal structures for flexible work that include appropriate rights and protections for workers;
- provide more protection for workers from any damaging effects of night-time working;
- pursue the creation of the planned single enforcement body which would clarify rights of redress for those most in need;
- continue and expand support for older workers.
It also calls on businesses to:
- be more open to create more flexible constructions of work;
- offer more flexible working opportunities to benefit from a huge untapped pool of older workers and to assess whether their recruitment practices and workplaces are ‘ageist’.
Health at Work: ACAS publishes new guidance on managing stress at work and making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work
Managing stress at work:
ACAS has published new advice for employers on managing stress at work after YouGov revealed 33% of British workers disagreed that their organisation was effective at managing work-related stress. YouGov was commissioned by ACAS and surveyed just over 1,000 employees in Great Britain. ACAS sets out that stress can be caused by demands of the job, relationships at work, poor working conditions and life events outside of work such as financial worries. An ACAS poll in March 2023 revealed that 63% of employees felt stressed due to the rising cost of living.
Advice for employers on managing stress at work include:
- looking out for any signs of stress among staff. Signs include poor concentration, tiredness, low mood and avoiding social events;
- being approachable available and have an informal chat with staff who are feeling stressed;
- respecting confidentiality and being sensitive and supportive when talking to staff about work-related stress;
- communicating any internal and external help available to staff such as financial advice if the cost of living is a cause of stress.
ACAS states that creating a positive work environment can make employees healthier and happier at work, reduce absence levels and improve performance.
ACAS advice on managing stress can be accessed here.
Making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work:
ACAS has published new guidance for employers and workers on reasonable adjustments for mental health. ACAS states that ‘employers should try to make reasonable adjustments even if the issue is not a disability’. The guidance covers:
- what reasonable adjustments for mental health are;
- examples of reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- what reasonable adjustments can be made for mental health;
- requesting reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- responding to reasonable adjustments for mental health requests;
- managing employees with reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- reviewing policies with mental health in mind.
ACAS has also published case studies exploring how different organisations have helped staff with reasonable adjustments for mental health.
Disability: HSE launches podcast to support disabled people in the workplace
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new podcast aiming to help employers support disabled workers and those with long-term health conditions in the workplace. The podcast features discussion by host Mick Ord, former BBC Radio journalist, Moya Woolley, Occupational Health Policy Team Leader at HSE and Rebecca Hyrslova, Policy Advisor at Federation of Small Businesses (FSB); and offers advice for employers on how to create a supportive and enabling workplace, take an inclusive approach to workplace health, understand the work barriers that impact on workers, make suitable workplace adjustments or modifications, develop skills, knowledge and understanding, use effective and accessible communication, and support sickness absence and return to work.
Diversity: EBA publishes consultation on guidance on benchmarking of diversity practices
The European Banking Authority (EBA) has launched a consultation on guidelines on the benchmarking of diversity practices including diversity policies and the gender pay gap pursuant to Articles 75(1) and 91(11) of the Capital Requirements Directive IV (Directive 2013/36/EU) (CRD IV) and Article 34(1) of the Investment Firms Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/2034). The EBA has been collecting data on diversity since 2015 based on information requests. The EBA hopes that the issuance of these guidelines will lead to a higher level of transparency regarding the EBA’s work on the topic of diversity and gender equality and will help improve the quality of the collected data as well as the awareness of all stakeholders on these topics. The new reporting format is expected to apply for the collection of data in 2025 for the financial year 2024. Responses are sought to the consultation by 24 July 2023.
Sex Discrimination: Research reveals unfair treatment at work after fertility treatment
Pregnant Then Screwed published a press release during Infertility Awareness Week revealing the unfair treatment women face in the workplace due to their reproductive health. Research has revealed that of the 43% of women who informed their employer of their fertility treatment, one in four did not receive any support from their employer. One in four women also experienced unfair treatment because of undergoing fertility treatment. Unfair treatment was also experienced by 22% of women who disclosed their pregnancy loss to their employer while 6% of partners who disclosed the same faced negative treatment.
The press release confirms Pregnant Then Screwed will be launching a new programme to help employers deal with reproductive health issues in the workplace better. They will be hosting a Women in the Workplace seminar for businesses to find out more about the new training and accreditation scheme which signals fertility friendly employers. This free event will take place in June 2023.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
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.
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Employment Law General Update – December 2022
This month’s law update brings you a variety of ways to improve the workplace to make life better for employees and move the workforce forward. We have proposals on the reform of flexible working, a report advising the UK Financial Services sector on how to support and improve the under-representation of ethnic minorities in its sector, advice on supporting the health of male staff, and a report on inclusion of socio-economic diversity in the financial and professional services. And the changes don’t stop there – new company car rates apply from 1 December and various employment benefit rates are to be increased from next April.
- Flexible Working: BEIS publishes consultation response on proposal to reform flexible working regulations
- Equality: Race to Equality in UK Financial Services report by Reboot
- Health at Work: Mental and physical health support for male staff beyond Movember
- Inclusion: Socio-Economic Diversity taskforce publishes class barrier report
- Employment Benefits: Rates of SMP, SSP, Maternity Allowance etc to be increased in April 2023
- Company Cars: Advisory fuel rates from 1 December 2022
Flexible Working: BEIS publishes consultation response on proposal to reform flexible working regulations
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published the government response to the consultation on its reform to make flexible working the default which was launched in September 2021. Following the changes to working during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the consultation included a set of proposals which were built around the principle that working arrangements were best decided through a constructive, open-minded discussion between employer and employee. The government response confirms its intention to introduce several different measures in relation to flexible working. A total of 1611 responses were received for this consultation, of which 83% were from individuals.
Measures to be implemented by the government include:
- removing the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right;
- adding a new requirement for employers to consult with their employee when intending to decline the request for flexible working;
- allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, rather than only one as currently allowed;
- reducing the time limit for an employer to respond to a flexible working request from three to two months; and
- removing the requirement for employees to detail the effects of their flexible working request on the employer and to include ways on how it might be dealt with.
Equality: Race to Equality in UK Financial Services report by Reboot
Reboot, a campaigning group of senior financial services industry professionals, has published its 2022 report on addressing the under-representation of ethnic minorities in the UK financial services sector. The report shows that 68% of ethnic minority employees have experienced discrimination and a shocking 82% have experienced unwelcome comments or conduct at their organisation based on their background in the last 12 months. The report provides financial services businesses with a three-point plan for the support of ethnic minority employees and to form a diverse workspace:
1. Leaders take charge
To remove barriers to progress, leaders have to set the tone and not outsource diversity and inclusion. By championing the cause from the top and supporting ethnic minority role models within the business, it will help to empower workforces and create an environment where employees feel comfortable to talk about race, just like we have observed with gender diversity.
2. Challenge negative office cultures
Poor attitudes in the workplace are still hindering progression. Racism has no place in the modern workplace, and it is telling that ethnicity-related jokes are still heard in offices across the industry. These behaviours need to be challenged and extinguished if we are to create a safe working environment for those of every background.
3. Close the gap and be transparent
The majority of all respondents believe ethnicity pay gap reporting should be mandatory. More transparency on ethnicity data reporting will therefore mean companies will have to become more accountable – and this will help build a sustainable roadmap. Furthermore, organisations that can show that they are fair will be more attractive to employees, customers, and investors.
Health at Work: Mental and physical health support for male staff beyond Movember
People Management has published an article by Dr Bernard Yew about how employers need to take care of their male employees because research shows they are falling behind, despite a whole month highlighting specifically male health issues – Movember is all about raising money and awareness for the prostate cancer charity. According to the article:
- Male employees are still twice as likely as female employees to feel that their employer doesn’t care about their wellbeing.
- 16 per cent of men feel work provides little or no wellbeing support, compared to just 8 per cent of women.
- One in two also say that working for their employer has undermined their health or caused them to become sick (despite two-thirds of male employees believing their employer has responsibility for their health and wellbeing).
One of the causes given is that gendered stereotypes persist, with men sometimes seen to be less in need of emotional support at work, despite two-fifths (40 per cent) of men saying emotional worries are their biggest wellbeing concern. Financial worries are the second biggest wellbeing worry after emotional health, with two-fifths of men saying their ability to manage finances is one of their biggest wellbeing challenges. This is closely followed by concerns about their weight, risk of developing cancer and not getting enough sleep. Given that the Samaritans claim that ‘Middle-aged men are more likely to die by suicide than any other age group’ it should give employers cause for reflection.
Critical to transforming this is encouraging managers to make a habit of conducting ‘check-in chats’ with men, as well as women, to ask them how they are, instead of just talking about goals and targets. Although these conversations can feel a little awkward at first, 28 per cent of men say a supportive manager is important for helping them to stay healthy. Men are also much more likely to utilise support services at their managers’ suggestion, than if left to initiate asking for support themselves, the article continues.
Given the long hours spent in work means employers have a vital role to play when it comes to supporting men to reduce health risks. Dr Yew suggests strategies such as:
- Enabling employees to access healthy food during the day, with education on how to batch cook and quickly reheat healthy food.
- Encouraging employees to go out during their lunch break to stay active.
- Offering simple finger-prick blood tests to help men identify risk factors, such as diabetes and high cholesterol, which can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Enabling men to access healthcare easily (47 per cent of men find it difficult to access their doctor or GP, while 56 per cent have been personally affected by delays accessing NHS support, add to that the general reluctance of men to see support and brush concerns aside).
- Using occupational health services, ranging from virtual GP and physiotherapy services to onsite clinicians.
To read the article in full, click here.
Inclusion: Socio-Economic Diversity taskforce publishes class barrier report
The Socio-Economic Diversity taskforce has published a Five Point Pathway aimed at tackling the lack of socio-economic diversity at senior levels in the financial and professional services sectors. The Pathway, which is the culmination of two years’ work, consists of recommendations from the employers, sector bodies, regulators, and government on how to break the class barrier and create a more welcoming environment for a more diverse pool of talent.
The five points (or steps) on the pathway are leadership, assess, take action, set goals, and publish and involve different processes depending on which set of institutions an organisation belongs to. For employers:
The starting point step is appoint creating clear accountability and responsibility for socio-economic diversity within an organisation. The Taskforce recommends appointing a senior champion as well as a system of reporting on ongoing strategy and progress in increasing socio-economic diversity at senior levels. Employers should aim to incentivise senior leaders and managers to meet targets.
Step two revolves around the collection of data to understand the current socio-economic make-up of the workforce. The taskforce recommends collecting data from the entire workforce on an annual basis and analysing this against different levels of seniority. Transparency is also important in this step as showing employees how the data is used and handled is more likely to build trust in the process.
3. Take action
Step three of the pathway is about taking positive action to increase inclusion and support the progression of those from non-professional backgrounds into leadership positions. The taskforce recommends the development of role models and ‘champion networks’ within an organisation as well as analysing recruitment and promotion processes to ensure they do not involve barriers to progression.
4. Set goals
Step four involves setting targets once data has been collected to incentivise actions which increase an organisation’s socio-economic diversity. The taskforce recommends setting targets for employee self-disclosure and taking a holistic view of data collected alongside other characteristics such as gender and ethnicity.
The final step is about public accountability. The taskforce recommends that employers publish their data on socio-economic gaps publicly and share any progress made towards closing the gaps with employees, investors and clients.
Co-Chair of the Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce and Chair of Progress Together, Alderman Vincent Keaveny, commented “Socio-economic diversity is key to all sectors. It is vital that firms take action to create a more equitable pathway to the top for people from all backgrounds. I am excited to continue this great work as Chair of Progress Together so we maximise the potential of talented people and boost productivity.” The full report can be read here.
Employment Benefits: Rates of SMP, SSP, Maternity Allowance etc to be increased in April 2023
According to a Statement to Parliament by Mel Stride, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and proposals set out in a Department for Work and Pensions policy paper, in April 2023, State Pension and benefit rates will increase in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for the year to September 2022. This means that they will increase by 10.1% from 10 April 2023. Accordingly, the following employment benefits will apply from that time:
- the rates for Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay, Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Maternity Allowance will all increase from £156.66 to £172.48 per week, and
- the rate for Statutory Sick Pay will increase from £99.35 to £109.40 per week.
Company Cars: Advisory fuel rates from 1 December 2022
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has published revised advisory fuel rates for company cars which apply from 1 December 2022. The full information can be read here.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org