Employment Law Newsletter – January 2022
Here we look at some of the big issues to occur over the last 12 months and what to expect over the coming year.
Hot topics of 2021:
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the employment landscape. While many had expected, or hoped, the changes brought by the pandemic would have plateaued in the latter half of 2021, many employees are only just returning to the workplace following a change in government guidance in December 2021. In some respects, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst, particularly around flexible and hybrid working, however the delays to key employment law developments expected to take place in 2021 continue into 2022. The pandemic has also formed the context of a number of cases that have come through the employment tribunal system as a result of remote working and the furlough scheme. There have also been a raft of cases involving unfair dismissals, where not knowing how to react to the difficulties brought by the virus sometimes led employers into trouble. Covid-19 also had a significant gendered economic impact on women.
Of course, Covid-19 sent the world into a tailspin with employers and employees both having to work out how to be productive despite very challenging circumstances, nevertheless it has highlighted the myriad of possibilities that exist. There have been calls by many respected business groups to make flexible working the default position, leading to a government consultation on the subject, and the CIPD calling for it as a day one right.
Equal Pay and the Gender Pay Gap
Big cases for Morrisons and Asda determined that (female) retail workers could be compared with those of (male) logistics workers at national distribution centres. Meanwhile, enforcement of gender pay gap reporting was put back six months in 2021 due to the pandemic, with most eligible companies now complying with their reporting obligations. There have now been calls for reporting of the ethnic pay gap, especially since some big firms have voluntarily started publishing results which include other diversity metrics including class, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disability – way beyond the minimum obligation, and tying in nicely with the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda.
The Employment Bill
The bill was promised in the 2019-20 parliamentary session but did not get past a first reading. It was omitted from the Queen’s speech in 2021 with the government response being it will be addressed “when parliamentary time allows”, namely once all the extra pandemic work is out of the way. There do seem to be small workings taking place though – with the single enforcement body for employment rights starting to take shape, but again, this will involve more parliamentary time to flesh out its bones. We continued to see the evolution of cases involving workers in the gig economy. This is an area that is not going away just yet, and we hope to see more clarification in the Bill when it is ready.
The Big Issues for 2022:
Changes to traditional 9-5 office-based working
Whilst some employers are now requiring their workforces to return to pre-pandemic working locations, the pandemic shifted and centralised the issue of flexible working for employers, with many now normalising a return to offices on a hybrid basis. A government consultation on making flexible working the “default position” ran from September to December 2021 and set out five proposals including making flexible working a day one right. Note that the government’s proposals do not introduce an automatic right for employees to work flexibly. Rather, the proposals include a number of measures to broaden the scope of the right, while retaining the basic system involving a conversation between employer and employee about how to balance work requirements and individual needs, potentially changing the statutory business reasons for refusing a flexible working request. As the consultation closed on 1 December 2021, it is unlikely there will be a response from the government until the latter half of 2022.
Some developing themes which employers may continue to face in 2022 include requests from employees to work flexibly abroad and the impact on wellbeing of continued working from home. Following research about the significant amount of hidden overtime while working from home during the pandemic, there have also been calls for the government to introduce a “right to disconnect“. This has recently been brought into effect in some European countries and is being discussed by the Scottish Government in relation to their own employees. It was also mentioned in a briefing paper on hybrid working published by the House of Commons Library in November 2021. Most recently, several big companies have announced their intention to trial four day working weeks, with senior managers under 35 being the most enthusiastic, understanding the impact on employees as well as improving retention and happiness. Perhaps this is the year that the oft quoted “good work-life balance” statement actually rings true.
Vaccinations at work
On 1 April 2022, following a consultation, regulations come into force which will make vaccination against COVID-19 a requirement for health and social care workers in a face-to-face role. It remains to be seen how employers in this sector will deal with unvaccinated employees. Employers in other sectors, who have a duty to maintain a safe workplace, have been encouraging staff to get vaccinated. In the absence of further government requirements on mandatory vaccinations, there would be risks for employers who may want to make vaccination a requirement for new or existing staff. The key legal problem will be the risk of potential unfair dismissal and potential discrimination claims if employees are dismissed for refusing to be vaccinated and the employer is unable to justify dismissal as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
New duty to prevent sexual harassment
On 21 July 2021, the government published its response to the 2019 consultation on workplace sexual harassment. The response confirmed a new duty for employers to prevent sexual and third-party harassment, which is likely to include a defence where an employer has taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent the harassment. The government will also consider the proposal to extend the time limits for claims under the Equality Act 2010, but has not yet committed to making any changes. The duty will come into force when Parliamentary time allows.
Review of gender pay gap reporting regulations
By April 2022, the government must review the gender pay gap regulations as they are obliged to do so within five years of the regulations coming into force (regulation 16(3), Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 (SI (2017/172)). The purpose of this review will be to assess the extent to which the reporting requirement achieved the objectives of the regulations, whether the objectives remain appropriate and whether any unnecessary burden is placed on employers.
Several data protection developments are likely to impact employment practitioners in 2022. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) proposed data protection reforms in its consultation which closed on 19 November 2021. The primary objective of the consultation was to seek views on the proposals to reduce the burden data protection places on businesses. In addition, the government sought views on how Article 22 of the UK GDPR should be interpreted in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) in several areas, including where it related to automated decision-making.
We are also expecting to see updated data protection and employment practices guidance in 2022 from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), following a call for views which ran until 28 October 2021. The new guidance will finally replace the ICO’s employment practices code, supplementary guidance and the quick guide, which have not been updated since the Data Protection Act 2018 came into force. The new guidance will cover topics including recruitment and selection, employment records, monitoring of workers, and information about workers’ health.
Human Rights Act 1998
In 2020, the government announced the launch of an independent review of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998), while emphasising its ongoing commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Independent Human Rights Act Review (IHRAR), conducted by an independent panel chaired by Sir Peter Gross, a former Court of Appeal judge, reported back to the government on 29 October 2021. On 14 December 2021, the Ministry of Justice published Human Rights Act Reform: A Modern Bill Of Rights, a consultation on replacing the HRA 1998 with a Bill of Rights. The full report conducted by the IHRAR Panel was also published on 14 December 2021. Whether the right to a jury trial should be recognised in the Bill of Rights and the introduction of a permission stage for human rights claims where claimants must establish they have suffered “significant disadvantage” or that the claim is of “overriding public importance” are key proposals included in the consultation document.
Many of the proposals are regarded as highly controversial. However, it should be recognised that the proposals are simply being consulted on at this stage and therefore whether they ultimately become law remains to be seen following the close of the consultation in March 2022.
Potential developments to look out for:
Single enforcement body for the labour market
In the Good Work Plan, the government announced an intention to bring forward proposals for a new single labour market enforcement agency. On 8 June 2021, BEIS published the government consultation response on the proposal, and confirmed they would consolidate three of the current enforcement bodies into a single agency with increased powers. On 22 November 2021, Margaret Beels OBE was appointed as the new Director of Labour Market Enforcement, and she plans to set the strategic direction for the three existing labour market enforcement bodies that will be amalgamated into the single body; the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Team. The formation of the new agency requires primary legislation and this will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows. The joined-up approach is intended to help improve enforcement through better co-ordination and pooling intelligence.
Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements
In July 2019, the government published its proposals to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the settlement of workplace harassment or discrimination complaints. The government reiterated that confidentiality clauses can serve a legitimate purpose in both employment contracts and settlement agreements but confirmed its intention to bring forward new legislation “when Parliamentary time allows“.
This measure has been significantly delayed due to the pandemic, but it is anticipated that the legislation (likely to be included in the long-awaited Employment Bill) will curb the use of NDA provisions in employment contracts and settlement agreements alongside a requirement for independent legal advice to be provided to individuals asked to sign an NDA. New enforcement measures will be introduced for NDAs in employment contracts and settlement agreements that do not comply with legal requirements.
In practice Employment lawyers have been ahead of the government on this matter. Since the emergence of the #MeToo movement settlement agreement have routinely included carve outs from the confidentiality provisions to allow ex-employees to report crimes, as well as seeking support from professionals providing medical, therapeutic, counselling and support services. As ever though without statutory backing the inclusion of such carve outs remains dependent on the negotiating powers of the parties involved.
Tipping, gratuities, cover and service charges
Another measure to be included in the Employment Bill, once progressed, is legislation that will see tips retained by hospitality staff in their entirety, except deductions required by tax law. Employers will also be required to distribute tips in a fair and transparent way, according to a published policy. A new Code of Practice on Tipping, to which employers will be required to have regard, is expected to replace the existing voluntary code of practice.
Neonatal leave and pay
On 16 March 2020, the government responded to a consultation on neonatal care leave, proposing the introduction of statutory neonatal leave and pay for up to 12 weeks for parents of babies requiring neonatal care. The government will legislate to implement the new entitlements in the forthcoming Employment Bill.
Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents
On 21 June 2021, the Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill was reintroduced to Parliament for a second time. The second reading of this Private Members’ Bill is scheduled for 18 March 2022. If passed, the Bill will prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the end of the pregnancy or maternity leave, except in specified circumstances. This follows the government’s statement on 22 July 2019 that it would expand redundancy protection in response to a BEIS consultation on the matter. The government has since reiterated their intention to extend the period of redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents would progress as part of the Employment Bill “when Parliamentary time allows“. It remains unclear whether the extended redundancy protection will be implemented through the Private Members’ Bill or the Employment Bill.
Leave for unpaid carers
On 23 September 2021 the government published a response to its consultation on carer’s leave. In the response, the government committed to introducing a right for unpaid carers to take up to a week of unpaid leave per year. There is no scheduled timetable for the introduction of this right; it will progress when Parliamentary time allows.
Ethnicity pay gap reporting
In 2018, the government launched a series of measures to tackle barriers facing ethnic minorities in the workplace, including a consultation on the introduction of mandatory ethnicity pay reporting, based on the model of mandatory gender pay gap reporting. While the government is still considering mandatory ethnic pay reporting, and has failed to respond to its consultation (which closed in January 2019), there has been a wider move towards voluntary collection of diversity data to help companies identify and address existing barriers to access or promotion.
Disability workforce reporting
The government is consulting on disability workforce reporting for large employers with 250 or more employees and is expected to publish their response on 17 June 2022, as part of the National Disability Strategy. Through the consultation the government hope to glean information on current reporting practices, arguments for and against implementing a mandatory approach and how such a mandatory approach may be implemented. The consultation also requests views on alternative approaches to enhance transparency and increase inclusivity for disabled people in the workforce. The consultation will accept submissions until 25 March 2022.
Whistleblowing review and new EU Directive
BEIS announced a review of whistleblowing legislation, following the publication of data showing that one in four COVID-19 whistleblowers who contacted the whistleblowing advice service, Protect, were dismissed between September 2020 and March 2021. The scope of the review has not yet been confirmed and whether it is to fall within the remit of the single body to enforce workers’ rights. Although the UK will not be required to implement the new EU Whistleblowing Directive (2019/1937/EU), the Directive may still influence whistleblowing practice, especially for pan-European organisations operating in multiple locations. Since 17 December 2021, EU member states have been obliged to bring into force the laws necessary to establish internal reporting channels. (For private sector entities with between 50 and 249 workers, the implementation deadline is extended to December 2023.) The Directive also requires measures to be implemented to protect a whistleblower’s identity, acknowledge disclosures within seven days and provide a response within a reasonable period.
Post-termination non-compete clauses
On 4 December 2020, BEIS opened a consultation on measures to reform post-termination non-compete clauses in employment contracts. The consultation, which closed on 26 February 2021, sought views on proposals to require employers to continue paying compensation to employees for the duration of a post-termination non-compete clause, requiring employers to confirm in writing to employees the exact terms of a non-compete clause before their employment commences, introducing a statutory limit on the length of non-compete clauses, or banning the use of post-termination non-compete clauses altogether. The government is yet to report the results of the consultation.
Extending ban on exclusivity clauses
Another consultation was launched by BEIS on 4 December 2020, on measures to extend the ban on exclusivity clauses in employment contracts to cover those earning under the Lower Earnings Limit, currently £120 a week. This would prevent employers from contractually restricting low earning employees from working for other employers. This consultation, which was launched in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on low earners, closed on 26 February 2021 but there is not currently a timetable for the next developments.
Working conditions in digital labour platforms
The European Commission has adopted a package of measures to improve working conditions in digital labour platform work and support their sustainable growth in the EU. The measures include a Directive, to which the UK will not be bound but which may prove to be influential.
On 20 January, the Court of Appeal heard the appeal in Kocur & Others v Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd, part of the latest instalment in long-running litigation involving agency workers supplied to Royal Mail. In the decision under appeal, the EAT concluded that the right of agency workers under regulation 13 of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/93) to be informed by their hirer of any relevant vacant posts with the hirer does not encompass a right to be entitled to apply, and be considered, for vacancies on the same terms as employees recruited directly by the hirer. The EAT also held, among other things, that there was no breach of the principle of equal treatment in agency workers’ shift lengths being 12 minutes longer than those of direct recruits, nor in direct recruits being given first refusal in relation to overtime. The judgment is awaited.
On 9 November 2021, the Supreme Court heard the case of Harpur Trust v Brazel. Judgment is awaited on whether “part-year workers” (those working only part of the year, such as during school terms) should have their annual leave entitlement capped at 12.07% of annualised hours. Once the case reached the Court of Appeal, Unison was given permission to intervene as an issue of general importance was raised regarding the calculation of holiday pay. The case was widely reported at the latter stages and may lead to further claims being brought by part-time employees. Therefore, the Supreme Court judgment is highly anticipated in the hope it will provide further clarity.
In Smith v Pimlico Plumbers Ltd, the EAT found that the ECJ’s ruling in King v Sash Window Workshop Ltd (Case C-214/16) EU:C:2017:914 should not be interpreted as meaning that a worker is entitled to carry over untaken annual leave where the worker was permitted to take leave that was unpaid. Although King established that a worker is entitled to carry over annual leave that is not taken because the employer refuses to pay for it (thereby discouraging the worker from taking leave), the principle does not apply to leave that was actually taken. The worker in this case, a plumbing and heating engineer, was therefore unable to rely on King when asserting his right to be paid for holiday he had taken at the time when his employer did not accept that he was a worker within the meaning of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) (WTR 1998). The main issue is likely to be whether unpaid leave can properly be regarded as leave for the purposes of the WTR 1998. The Court of Appeal heard the case on 7 and 8 December 2021 and judgment is awaited.
In Baker and others v Royal Mail, 120 postmasters and sub-postmasters brought an employment tribunal claim against the Post Office. The claimants run Post Office franchises but seek recognition as workers because of the degree of control the Post Office has over the work they do. The same argument was used successfully in the landmark Uber BV and others vs Aslam and others on which the Supreme Court ruled in February 2021. A judgment is yet to be delivered in this case and could have implications beyond the specific claimants as there are thousands of sub-postmasters across the UK.
The EAT is expected to deliver judgment in Mackereth v Department for Work and Pensions and another which concerns the refusal of a Christian doctor, engaged to carry out health assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions, to address transgender patients by their chosen pronoun. The EAT will consider an employment tribunal’s finding that while the doctor’s Christianity is protected under the Equality Act 2010, his particular beliefs, that God only created males and females, that a person cannot choose their gender and his conscientious objection to transgenderism, are not protected as they amount to views incompatible with human dignity and therefore conflict with the fundamental rights of others. The EAT heard the case on 18 and 19 October 2021 and judgment is awaited.
Lastly, Chell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Ltd was heard by the Court of Appeal in November 2021 and we are awaiting the outcome. The initial decision by the County Court, upheld by the High Court, found that an employer was not negligent or vicariously liable for a contractor’s personal injury suffered in its workplace because of an employee’s practical joke. The County Court held that devising and implementing a health and safety policy which factored in horseplay, or practical jokes, was expecting too much of an employer.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employment Law Newsletter – November 2021
- Disability Discrimination: Dismissal for poor performance was not disability discrimination
- Whistleblowing: It is not automatically unfair to dismiss for redundancy based on reasons materially influenced by protected disclosures
- Unfair Dismissal: Employee must be allowed chance to respond to allegation relied upon in disciplinary hearing
- Unfair Dismissal: Tribunal cannot impose reason for dismissal not raised by parties
- Human Rights: Conduct at preliminary hearing held in private does not form part of claimant’s private life and engage Article 8
- Autumn Budget: Key employment law points
- Contracts: Government blocks “fire and rehire” bill but encourages ACAS to produce guidance instead
- Working From Home: Employer monitoring of homeworkers prompts calls for strengthened regulation
- Artificial Intelligence: New AI legislation proposed to counter negative impacts of use of surveillance technologies on workers
- Gender Pay Gap: Analysis of 2021 GPG figures shows slight narrowing of gap
- Mental Health: Conflicted workers struggling with childcare responsibilities can be more productive with support and flexibility
Disability Discrimination: Dismissal for poor performance is not disability discrimination
In Stott v Ralli Ltd  UKEAT 2019-000772, the EAT has upheld a tribunal’s decision that the dismissal of a paralegal for poor performance was not an act of discrimination arising from disability (a mental health impairment) contrary to section 15 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010).
The claim had been brought solely in relation to the claimant’s dismissal and the tribunal had been entitled to find that the respondent did not have knowledge (actual or constructive) of the claimant’s disability before the dismissal. Further, the tribunal had correctly directed itself in relation to the justification defence and had made sufficient findings of fact to support its conclusion that the defence had been made out.
In relation to knowledge, the claimant argued that the tribunal should have regarded the grievance she brought after her dismi ssal, and her appeal from the outcome of the grievance, as an integral part of the dismissal process. She submitted that the tribunal should have found that, by the end of that process, the respondent had knowledge of her disability. She relied on the EAT’s decision in Baldeh v Churches Housing Association of Dudley and District Ltd UKEAT/0290/18, which held that, where an employer had not known about an employee’s disability at the time of their dismissal but had been told about it at an appeal hearing, the dismissal could be discriminatory under section 15 of the EqA 2010.
The EAT noted that, for the purposes of an unfair dismissal claim, dismissal is regarded as a process which includes the appeal stage. It held that Baldeh does not establish any legal principle to the effect that the same approach universally applies in a discrimination claim. The approach in Baldeh was in fact similar to that in CLFIS (UK) Ltd v Reynolds  ICR 1010 in which it was held that a claim that a decision to dismiss was discriminatory, and a claim that a decision on appeal was discriminatory, were distinct claims which must be raised and considered separately. The claimant in this case had not brought a claim of disability discrimination in relation to her grievance; her claim was limited to the respondent’s dismissal decision.
Whistleblowing: It is not automatically unfair to dismiss for redundancy based on reasons materially influenced by protected disclosures
In Secure Care UK Limited v Mott  EA-2019-000977-AT, the EAT had to consider whether a dismissal by reason of redundancy (carried out after the employee had made protected disclosures) would be automatically unfair if the decision to dismiss had been ‘materially influenced’ by such disclosures. The EAT held that it would not.
The claimant was employed by the respondent as a logistics manager, providing transport services for NHS patients with mental health issues, including those detained under the Mental Health Act. He made nine protected disclosures about his employer (including insufficient staffing levels), who subsequently made him redundant. The claimant claimed under section 103A Employment Rights Act 1996 that he had been unfairly dismissed by reason of making protected disclosures. The tribunal, finding that three of the nine communications relied upon by the claimant were protected disclosures, upheld his claim, stating that while there was a genuine redundancy situation, the disclosures made by the claimant had had a material impact on his selection.
At appeal the case was remitted on the issue of causation as the EAT found that the tribunal had erred in two respects. Firstly, in applying the wrong causation test, namely the ‘materially influences’ test applicable to section 47B claims for detriment by reason of making a protected disclosure (Fecitt v NHS Manchester  ICR 372), rather than the ‘sole or principal reason’ test required by the terms of section 103A. Secondly, in failing to distinguish the impact of the three protected disclosures, from the impact of all nine of the claimant’s communications about staffing levels, when considering the reason for the dismissal.
Unfair Dismissal: Employee must be allowed chance to respond to allegation relied upon in disciplinary hearing
In London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham v Keable  UKEAT 2019-000733 the EAT had to consider a Council employee who had been dismissed for serious misconduct arising out of comments he made in a conversation with another individual when they each attended different rallies outside Parliament in his time off. The employee was pulled into a disciplinary process because, although his role at the Council was non-political, the conversation had been about events around the time of the Haavara Agreement of 1933 prior to WWII. Not only had the words spoken included reference to anti-Semitism, Nazis and the Holocaust, but it had been filmed and made its way around social media, resulting in an MP tweeting about it and identifying the claimant as a Labour Party member and Momentum organiser. Once identified as a Council employee, the MP caused the respondent to investigate and a disciplinary process was begun, following which, the claimant was dismissed for serious misconduct. The claimant had never known about the video or been told which specific allegation had led to his dismissal. He brought a claim of unfair dismissal.
At tribunal, the judge determined that the dismissal was both procedurally and substantively unfair. She made an order for reinstatement. The respondent employer appealed.
In dismissing the appeals, the EAT found that the tribunal judge was entitled to conclude that the dismissal was unfair. She concluded that there were relevant and significant errors in the procedure adopted by the Council employer, including the fact that the claimant was not informed of the specific allegation which led to his dismissal and the fact that the possibility of a lesser sanction, a warning, was not discussed with him. In reaching her conclusions the Judge did not substitute her own views for that of the employer. Whilst the Judge should have raised a relevant authority with the parties, on the facts of this case, that did not vitiate the decision. As to remedy, on the evidence before her, the Judge was entitled to conclude that reinstatement was practicable and to make the order she did. It was noted that in conduct cases, re-instatement can be ordered even if the dismissing manager genuinely believed misconduct had occurred; a conduct dismissal does not automatically mean that re-instatement is impracticable.
Unfair Dismissal: Tribunal cannot impose reason for dismissal not raised by parties
In Stone v Burflex (Scaffolding) Ltd  UKEAT 2019 001183 the appellant raised a grievance about his level of pay; following a meeting with the respondent’s management he was summarily dismissed. The appellant brought a claim for unfair dismissal under s.104 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). The respondent’s primary case had been that he was not dismissed but had resigned. The employment judge found that the appellant had been dismissed. The employment judge decided that he had not asserted a statutory right (namely the right not to suffer unauthorised deductions from pay) and that the principal reason for his dismissal was not such an assertion but related to the availability of work and was the withdrawal of a concession to provide him with alternative work and was therefore redundancy or some other substantial reason.
The EAT considered that, on all the evidence, the finding that the appellant had not asserted a statutory right was perverse and so it substituted a finding to the contrary. The finding as to the reason for dismissal involved errors of law in that (a) the employment judge had not asked himself why the respondent had decided to withdraw the concession, and (b) the employment judge had identified a reason for dismissal which neither party had contended for without raising the matter with the parties before making a decision, when there were a number of submissions the appellant might have made if the matter had been raised (in particular relating to s.105 ERA).
Human Rights: Conduct at preliminary hearing held in private does not form part of claimant’s private life and engage Article 8
In Ameyaw v PricewaterhouseCoopers Services Ltd  UKEAT 2019-000480, the EAT held that a tribunal had not erred in law by refusing a claimant’s application for an anonymity or restriction order under rule 50 of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure 2013 (ET Rules) and had correctly held that her rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were not engaged.
The claimant had previously brought another rule 50 application as part of wide-ranging litigation against her former employer. This appeal concerned her application for an order that her identity be anonymised or that the contents of the reasons for an order made by an employment judge at a private preliminary hearing not be disclosed to the public. The reasons recorded the disruptive behaviour of her and her mother, and she was concerned about harm to her reputation. The EAT agreed with the tribunal that the claimant’s Article 8 rights were not engaged, for the following reasons:
- The claimant was not relying on conduct external to the legal proceedings and forming part of her private life, but conduct at a hearing recorded in writen reasons issued by the tribunal.
- Conduct at a tribunal hearing must not be taken to form part of a claimant’s private life protected by Article 8, even if members of the public are excluded from the hearing. A private hearing should not be conflated with the sphere of a claimant’s private life; the two are not the same.
- The claimant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to her conduct at the hearing. A reasonable person of oridnary sensibilities would not consider the public disclosure of the nature of their conduct at a hearing, even a private one, to be offensive. It was a foreseeable conseuqence that a claimant who misconducts themselves at a hearing will have the nature andextent of their misconduct set out in the tribunal’s decision.
The EAT concluded that, even if Article 8 were engaged, the tribunal was correct to find that the balancing exercise was against the making of an order under rule 50 and in favour of the open justice principle.
Autumn Budget: Key employment law points
On 27 October 2021, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, delivered the Autumn 2021 Budget. The government has wound down much of the emergency support it put in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the budget announcements address the government’s shift in focus to economic recovery. We set out below the salient points in relation to employment.
Ongoing risks from COVID-19
It is noted that risks remain from COVID-19, especially through the coming months. On 14 September 2021, the government published COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan which sets out how, through use of Plans A and B, it intends to address the challenges that may be posed by COVID-19 over the autumn and winter period. It is suggested that the government is monitoring the data closely and will only introduce further measures if needed.
Skills and apprenticeships
On 4 October 2021, the Chancellor announced a £500 million expansion of the government’s Plan for Jobs initiative which would target support to workers leaving the furlough scheme, the unemployed aged over 50, the lowest paid and young people. The Chancellor announced further investment intended to boost opportunities for people to upskill and retrain, and an increase in apprenticeships funding. In particular, there will be increased funding for the National Skills Fund to expand the Lifetime Skills Guarantee so more adults in England can access funding for in-demand Level 3 courses and Skills Bootcamps will be scaled up.
As a result of increased apprenticeships funding, the government will continue to meet 95% of the apprenticeship training cost for employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy and will deliver apprenticeship system improvements for all employers. These include:
- An enhanced recruitment service by May 2022 for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), helping them hire new apprentices.
- Supporting flexible apprenticeship training models to ensure that apprenticeship training continues to meet employers’ needs. By April 2022, the government will consider changes to the provider payment profiles aimed at giving employers more choice over how the apprenticeship training is delivered and explore the streamlining of existing additional employer support payments so that they go directly to employers.
- Introducing a return-on-investment tool in October 2022 to ensure employers can see the benefits apprentices create in their business.
The Chancellor confirmed the extension of the £3,000 apprentice hiring incentive for employers until 31 January 2022 and announced investment in the Sector Based Work Academy Programme (SWAPs) which give unemployed people the opportunity to undertake work experience, learn new skills and retrain into high-demand sectors in their local area.
National minimum wage
On 3 March 2021, the government published its remit for the Low Pay Commission (LPC) for 2021. The remit asks the LPC to make recommendations for the National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates that should apply from April 2022. The LPC submitted its recommendations on 22 October 2021 and these were accepted by the government.
The Chancellor announced that the following rates (per hour) will apply from 1 April 2022:
- NLW for those over 23: from £8.91 to £9.50.
- NMW for those aged 21 to 22: from £8.36 to £9.18.
- NMW for those aged 18 to 20: from £6.56 to £6.83.
- NMW for those aged under 18: from £4.62 to £4.81.
- Apprentice Rate: from £4.30 to £4.81.
- Accommodation offset rate: from £8.36 to £8.70.
Workers who live in their employer’s family home, are treated as a member of the family and are not charged for food or accommodation do not qualify for the NMW (regulation 57, National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/621)). In submitting its recommendations, the LPC noted that this exemption, which was introduced to facilitate au pair placements, has given rise to longstanding concerns that it has provided a loophole for the exploitation of migrant domestic workers. The LPC recommends that the exemption is removed.
Contracts: Government blocks “fire and rehire” bill but encourages ACAS to produce guidance instead
The BBC reported on 22 October that the government has blocked a Private Member’s Bill which aimed to curb the practice of “fire and rehire” that has been the subject of recent high-profile disputes. Employers who wish to make detrimental changes to employees’ terms and conditions will, in the absence of employees agreeing to those changes, dismiss them and offer to re-engage them on the detrimental terms.
On 8 June 2021, responding to a report published by ACAS, the government stated that it would not yet legislate to prevent this practice but had requested that ACAS prepare more detailed guidance on how and when dismissal and re-engagement should be used.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner sponsored the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill which would discourage the use of fire and rehire practices and grant additional protection to those affected by it. The government ordered Conservative MPs to oppose the Bill at its second reading on 22 October 2021, as reported in Hansard. While it regards the practice as “unacceptable as a negotiating tactic“, the government intends to await the ACAS guidance. ACAS duly obliged by publishing this new guidance on 11 November 2021.
Working From Home: Employer monitoring of homeworkers prompts calls for strengthened regulation
On 5 November 2021, the BBC reported how some employers are monitoring their employees at home. The trade union, Prospect, has called for the regulation of employer’s use of technology to monitor employees to be strengthened. This comes as new polling suggests that nearly a third (32%) of employees working from home are being monitored by their employers, rising to nearly half (48%) for younger employees aged 18 to 34. The poll also shows that monitoring of homeworkers by camera has more than doubled since April 2021, from 5% to 13%. In addition to strengthened regulation, Prospect has called for the monitoring of employees through webcams to be made illegal, except during calls and meetings. This follows a recent consultation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for views to inform new data protection and employee practices guidance, including to reflect changes in the way employers use technology, which will replace the existing Employment Practices Code.
Artificial Intelligence: New AI legislation proposed to counter negative impacts of use of surveillance technologies on workers
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the future of work published a report on 11 November 2021 that calls for an “Accountability for Algorithms Act (the AAA)” to curb employers’ use of technologies that monitor workers and setting performance targets determined by algorithms. The AAA is proposed to counter the negative impacts of the use of surveillance technologies which has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report found that workers’ experience of these technologies amounts to “extreme pressure of constant, real-time micro-management and automated assessment“, and the APPG is particularly concerned about the impact this has on workers’ mental health and wellbeing. The report suggests the AAA would create a new corporate and public duty to undertake an “Algorithmic Impact Assessment“. It would also update digital protection for workers, offer additional collective rights for unions and specialist third sector organisations, and extend enforcement powers to the joint Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF).
On 19 November 2021, People Management published its exploration of the contents of the proposed Accountability for Algorithms Act, and what it might mean for employers. For a more in depth review, read the full article here: How new artificial intelligence legislation affects businesses.
Gender Pay Gap: Analysis of 2021 GPG figures shows slight narrowing of gap
On 15 November Personnel Today reported that PwC’s analysis of the most recent gender pay gap statistics shows a minimal decline of the gap from 13.3% in 2019/2020 to 13.1% in 2020/2021. According to PwC, the changes to the reporting deadline, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, impacted the disclosure rate significantly. Only a quarter of the employers that reported this year did so by the original reporting deadline of 5 April 2021. Analysis of those figures showed a decrease in the gender pay gap to 12.5%. By the extended deadline of 5 October 2021, 80% of the employers that reported in 2018/2019 had submitted their figures and the gap had risen to 13.1%. When the figures were released by ONS they noted comparisons ought be treated delicately due to the impact the pandemic had on wages and hours worked. PwC repeated this concern and added that the slight decrease in the gap, while positive, may be “masking other workforce patterns that are detrimental to gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace“.
Mental Health: Conflicted workers struggling with childcare responsibilities can be more productive with support and flexibility
Research carried out by Dr Deng at Durham Business School, and colleagues from other universities around the world, has found that parents who feel ashamed when something at work calls into question their parenting role, are less productive than those who do not feel ashamed. It also showed that staff struggling to balance work and parental responsibilities inevitably prioritise family commitments, at the expense of their work commitments. Those parents who already had lower levels of emotional stability were more likely to feel that their identity as a parent was under threat.
“Working parents not only experience pressure to exemplify an ‘ideal’ worker role, but they are also expected to engage in intensive parenting practices to raise successful children. Although the roles can complement each other, many find achieving this balance challenging, and therefore end up prioritising childcare as it is deemed more important.”Dr Deng
Dr Deng and colleagues explained that in today’s remote working world, the lines between professional and personal responsibilities are becoming blurred. More often than not, working parents are struggling to cope with the pressure of juggling the two, something which has been highlighted by the pandemic.
All is not lost though, as more and more organisations are finding out, good mental health is the cornerstone to a healthy and productive workforce. To help working parents tackle this imbalance, Dr Deng suggests organisations can, and should, be doing more to help their workers balance both their working role and their parental role too, saying:
“Organisations can train managers to recognise when employees are struggling with these issues, and work through those vulnerabilities by helping them to identify ways to proactively bounce back from their self-despair without withdrawing from their work roles.”Dr Deng
Dr Deng also suggests employers can also help employees further by giving them more flexibility to attend to their children’s needs, in exchange for employers gaining more focused and hardworking employees whilst on the job.
Speaking to People Management, Simon Kelleher, head of policy and influencing at Working Families said that flexible working practices are often beneficial for productivity and talent retention, but called on the government to deliver on the recent flexible working consultation.
“We continually hear from working parents and carers who are denied even modest flexible working requests and are having to make unenviable trade-offs to manage from going into debt to pay for childcare or leaving careers they had worked hard to build due to inflexibility,” he said.Simon Kelleher, Working Families
Currently, the law only allows for employees to take a ‘reasonable’ (which is undefined) amount of unpaid time off for unexpected events involving dependents. Some employers may provide further contractual benefits but this is entirely at the employer’s discretion.Simon
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Employment Law Newsletter – September 2021
- COVID-19: Employee able to proceed with victimisation claim concerning employer’s failure to furlough him
- COVID-19: Employment tribunal cases consider alleged discrimination of pregnant worker and dismissal of employee who refused to attend self-isolating manager’s home
- Contract: Employer liable to pay income protection payments not covered by insurance
- Unfair Dismissal: EAT confirms narrow scope of Jhuti principle
- COVID-19: Adjusted Right to Work checks extended until April 2022
- COVID-19: Government publishes Autumn and Winter Plan: employment aspects
- National Insurance: Increase to pay for health and social care
- Immigration: Changes to UK Immigration Rules announced
- Gender Pay Gap: EHRC and CMI publish toolkit to help employers tackle gender pay gap
- Flexible Working: Consultation published on making flexible working a “day one” right for employees
- Home Working: ONS figures suggest that older workers and disabled workers may retire later if they can work from home
COVID-19: Employee able to proceed with victimisation claim concerning employer’s failure to furlough him
An employment tribunal has allowed an employee’s victimisation claim that his employer subjected him to a detriment contrary to section 27 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) by not furloughing him under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to proceed, as amended. The employee’s other claims and proposed amendments were struck out or not allowed.
In Jimenez v Firmdale Hotels Plc ET/2203194/2020 (12 February 2021) Mr Jimenez had previously brought various claims against his employer, Firmdale Hotels Plc (Firmdale). These claims were dismissed following a final hearing in March 2021. The outcome of that hearing was unknown at the time that the preliminary judgment in the present case was handed down. However, it was not disputed that presentation of the earlier claims was a protected act within the meaning of section 27 EqA 2010. It was also not disputed that Mr Jimenez was excluded from the group of employees furloughed by Firmdale under the CJRS, whether in late March 2020 or subsequently. His exclusion was because he was on long-term sick leave and not in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay, meaning that Firmdale considered him “ineligible” under the CJRS. It subsequently considered it too late to furlough him because he had not been furloughed before June 2020.
Without purporting to make a judicial determination of the point, the employment judge at the preliminary hearing considered that Firmdale was mistaken in its understanding of the CJRS and could have furloughed Mr Jimenez. In addition, despite his requests, it had not explained to him in sufficient detail why it considered him ineligible for furlough. Firmdale submitted that other employees on long-term sick leave were treated in the same way as Mr Jimenez. The judge noted that if this was correct and there was no other indication of differential treatment, it would be compelling evidence that Mr Jimenez had not been subjected to a material detriment because of the protected act. However, with sufficient evidence to shift the burden of proof to Firmdale, his claim could proceed given that he had also attempted to present it in time. The judge advised Mr Jimenez to consider any comparator documents disclosed by Firmdale, as they were likely to inform his decision on whether to pursue his claim to a final hearing or apply to amend it to a discrimination arising from disability claim.
COVID-19: Employment tribunal cases consider alleged discrimination of pregnant worker and dismissal of employee who refused to attend self-isolating manager’s home
Two non-binding employment tribunal decisions have provided guidance on how measures taken to protect pregnant workers during the height of the pandemic might be viewed and when dismissing an employee who refuses to obey a management instruction due to COVID-related risks might be automatically unfair.
In Prosser v Community Gateway Association Ltd ET/2413672/2020 (13 May 2021), Ms Prosser, a pregnant zero hours worker, was sent home at the start of the pandemic because her employer viewed her as clinically vulnerable. Her return to work was delayed following a risk assessment and while her employer implemented social distancing measures (spacing of desks and Perspex screens). She was advised that she would not be asked to undertake night shifts, which involved lone working, unaccompanied travelling to tenants’ homes and the provision of physical support. This was deemed unsafe for her as a pregnant worker. During her absence, she was paid “generously” in excess of her contractual entitlement and was not left out of pocket. A payment was mistakenly made late but not because of her pregnancy. A tribunal dismissed her discrimination and victimisation claims, noting that her treatment was appropriately informed by the available public health advice and relevant COVID regulations. A formal risk assessment had been completed and the employer’s motive was to protect her and her unborn baby.
In Ham v Esl Bbsw Ltd ET/1601260/2020 (14 April 2021), Mr Ham was dismissed from his cleaning service job when he refused to deliver equipment to his self-isolating manager’s home, who had COVID-19 symptoms and was unvaccinated because it was the start of the pandemic. He offered to bring the equipment to another location, where it could be stored securely. In his internal appeal against his dismissal, he expressed concern for his and his family’s health. A tribunal concluded that his dismissal was for the principal reason that he had raised health and safety concerns, making it automatically unfair contrary to section 100(1)(c) and (e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. While his inexperienced manager was dealing with huge uncertainty at the start of the first lockdown, when a lot was unknown, her reaction to his legitimate concerns was not excusable. It was inconceivable that an employee being instructed to go to the home of two self-isolating individuals (his manager and her daughter) during late March 2020 was not raising legitimate health and safety concerns or taking appropriate steps to protect himself.
Contract: Employer liable to pay income protection payments not covered by insurance
In Amdocs Systems Group v Langton UKEAT/0093/20 and UKEAT/0210/20 (24 August 2021), the EAT has held that an employer was liable to pay an employee the level of income protection payments (IPP) set out in an offer letter and summary of benefits provided by his original employer prior to a TUPE transfer. The EAT held that those documents had contractual force as they contained clear and certain terms and were intended to be incorporated. The employer was bound to pay the additional “escalator” payment of 5% per annum that they referred to, regardless of the fact that this was not covered by its insurance. From a review of the relevant authorities the EAT held that it was clear that, if there was any ambiguity or uncertainty as to whether an employer’s obligation to provide benefits was limited by reference to the specific terms of its insurance cover, any such ambiguity would be resolved against the employer and in favour of the employee. To be effective, any limitation of the employer’s exposure should have been unambiguously and expressly communicated to the employee. However, the employee had not been given, nor given access to, the insurance policy terms, or any other document setting out the specifics of what those terms were.
This case is a reminder to transferee employers on a TUPE transfer to carefully check the level of permanent health insurance benefits provided by the transferor to any transferring employee, and whether this will be fully covered by their existing insurance policy.
Unfair Dismissal: EAT confirms narrow scope of Jhuti principle
In Kong v Gulf International Bank (UK) Ltd  EA-2020-000357-JOJ and EA-2020-000438-JOJ (10 September 2021) the EAT has clarified that, when determining the reason for dismissal in an unfair dismissal claim, it will rarely be possible to attribute to the employer the motivation of any person other than the one who decided to dismiss.
Ms Kong was employed by Gulf International Bank (UK) Limited (GIB) as Head of Audit. She raised several concerns with GIB’s Head of Legal, Ms Harding, about an agreement relating to one of GIB’s financial products. It was accepted that these concerns were protected disclosures. Ms Harding disagreed with Ms Kong and confronted her. During this conversation, Ms Kong questioned Ms Harding’s legal awareness. Ms Harding was upset and complained to GIB’s Head of HR and CEO that Ms Kong had questioned her “integrity“. She subsequently limited interaction with Ms Kong. The Head of HR and CEO informed the Group Chief Auditor of the incident. The three managers collectively decided that Ms Kong should be dismissed because her manner meant that colleagues did not want to work with her.
Ms Kong brought claims for unlawful detriment and automatic unfair dismissal for having raised protected disclosures. The claim for unlawful detriment as a result of Ms Harding’s treatment would have succeeded, but was out of time. The claim for automatic unfair dismissal failed: the tribunal found that the decision makers dismissed Ms Kong because of her conduct, not her protected disclosures.
Ms Kong appealed to the EAT in relation to the automatic unfair dismissal claim. She argued that Ms Harding had sought her dismissal because of the protected disclosures, and that Ms Harding’s motivation should therefore be attributed to GIB pursuant to Royal Mail Group Ltd v Jhuti  UKSC 55.
The EAT held that:
- The tribunal had been right not to attribute Ms Harding’s motivation to GIB. The principle in Jhuti will rarely apply. Ms Harding’s complaint that Ms Kong had criticised her integrity, as opposed to her legal awareness, was not sufficient manipulation for Jhuti purposes. Further, there was no finding that Ms Harding had sought Ms Kong’s dismissal.
- The tribunal was clear that what motivated the decision makers was not the content or fact of Ms Kong’s disclosures, but the way in which she conveyed her personal criticisms to Ms Harding. The former was properly separable from the latter.
COVID-19: Adjusted Right to Work checks extended until April 2022
The government announced at the end of August that the end date for the temporary adjusted checks has now been deferred to 5 April 2022. Given positive feedback on the ability to carry out checks remotely, the government has decided to continue using the following temporary changes (originally introduced on 30 March 2020) until 5 April 2022 (inclusive):
- checks can currently be carried out over video calls;
- job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals;
- employers should use the Home Office Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents.
You can be fined up to £20,000 for employing illegal workers so this is very important to get right.
See our Immigration note for more information on this: Checking a job applicant’s right to work.
COVID-19: Government publishes Autumn and Winter Plan: employment aspects
On 14 September 2021, the government published COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan. The Plan sets out how the government intends to address the challenges that may be posed by COVID-19 through autumn and winter while ensuring that the National Health Service is not put under unsustainable pressure.
Plan A is described as a comprehensive, five-point approach designed to steer the country through autumn and winter. In addition to continued use of pharmaceutical interventions (including further vaccine deployment), managing pressures on the NHS and social care and managing risks at the border, the government intends to continue with Test, Trace and Isolate and to provide guidance on how people can protect themselves. Existing requirements and support for self-isolation will remain in place. The government intends to review these by the end of March 2022. Guidance on how employers can reduce risks in their workplaces will be kept up to date.
Plan B is provided in outline and will only be enacted if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS. The steps anticipated here involve advising the public of the need to behave more cautiously given an increased level of risk, introducing mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings, legally mandating face coverings in certain settings (which would be determined at the time) and instructing those who can to work from home. The Plan concludes that beyond Plan B “more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort“.
National Insurance: Increase to pay for health and social care
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on 7 September 2021 a new UK wide ‘health and social care levy’ to address the funding crisis in this sector. See our full article on this for more detail: National Insurance increase to pay for health and social care.
Immigration: Changes to UK Immigration Rules announced
On 10 September 2021, the government published Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules: HC617, most of which comes into force on 1 October 2021. The statement:
- Introduces coronavirus (COVID-19) concessions on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), Skilled Worker and Tier 2 Sportsperson routes into the Immigration Rules.
- Extends the Youth Mobility Scheme to include nationals of Iceland and India.
- Introduces a dedicated International Sportsperson route to replace the T2 and T5 Temporary Worker routes for professional sporting workers.
- Expands the list of eligible prizes under the Global Talent route.
- Makes changes to the EUSS to allow a joining family member to apply to the EUSS while in the UK as a Visitor.
Gender Pay Gap: EHRC and CMI publish toolkit to help employers tackle gender pay gap
People Management has reported how the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is preparing to restart “enforcing gender pay gap reporting requirements again next month as a temporary suspension of enforcement, put in place to help employers through the coronavirus crisis, comes to an end”. With this in mind, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has partnered with the EHRC to create a practical toolkit to support organisations drive action in tackling their gender pay gap. The publication of practical guidance follows a warning from the ECHR that the gender pay gap disparity has widened during the pandemic, and that employers risk de-prioritising the issue close to the extended deadline of pay gap reporting of 5 October 2021. Government figures indicate that currently, only 5,000 employers of around 12,500 that meet the reporting requirements have filed figures for the year.
The toolkit itself contains case studies, recommended actions for employers, and tried and tested “how to” guides from the Behavioural Insights team.
Flexible Working: Consultation published on making flexible working a “day one” right for employees
The government has published a consultation document, Making flexible working the default, proposing various reforms to the right for employees to request flexible working, taking into account changes in working practices brought about during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposals do not introduce an automatic right for employees to work flexibly. Instead, the proposals include a number of measures to broaden the scope of the right, while retaining the basic system involving a conversation between employer and employee about how to balance work requirements and individual needs. The main change would be making the right a “day one” right, removing the requirement for 26 weeks’ qualifying service. The consultation also considers:
- Making changes, if necessary, to the eight business reasons for refusing a request to work flexibly.
- Requiring the employer to suggest alternatives to the arrangement suggested by the employee.
- Changing the administrative process underpinning the right to request flexible working. In particular, the government wants to explore whether to allow employees to make more than one statutory request each year.
- Raising awareness of the existing right of employees to request a temporary flexible working arrangement.
The government has decided not to proceed with the proposal, put forward in an earlier consultation, to introduce a requirement for large employers to publish their flexible working policies.
You can complete the online survey here. The consultation will remain open until 1 December 2021.
Home Working: ONS figures suggest that older workers and disabled workers may retire later if they can work from home
Website, peoplemanagement.co.uk, reported on 31 August 2021 that figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show how working from home has affected the older generation. For example, in June and July 2020, workers aged 50 and over who worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic instead of in their usual workplace were more than twice as likely to say they planned to retire later (11%) than those in the same age category who did not work from home (5%). Similarly, the statistics show that workers with a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity who work from home are nearly twice as likely to say they plan to retire later (10.9%) than those who do not work from home (5.9%). Jonathan Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, suggested that working from home could extend working lives and may be appreciated more by older workers than younger ones.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment Law Newsletter – March 2021
- COVID-19: Driver who refused to wear face mask was fairly dismissed
- Discrimination: Christian’s removal from office for being publicly outspoken against homosexuality and same-sex couple adoption was not discriminatory
- Working time: When standby periods can count as working time
- TUPE: Tribunal erred in ordering re-engagement by new service provider it identified as successor employer
- Workers: Uber commits to paying drivers a minimum hourly wage during trips
- Spring Budget: Employment issues
- COVID-19: Temporary tax and NICs exemptions extended and vehicle benefit charges increased
- COVID-19: ACAS updates working safely guidance regarding testing and vaccination
- COVID-19: EHRC suspends enforcement of 2020-21 gender pay gap reporting deadlines for six months
- Gender Pay Gap: Female financial services directors earn 66% less than male counterparts
- Equality: Fifth Hampton-Alexander report on gender balance in FTSE leadership
- Racism: Rise in BME unemployment is double that of white Britons
- Flexible working: Minister for Women and Equalities calls for flexible working to be normalised
COVID-19: Driver who refused to wear face mask was fairly dismissed
In Kubilius v Kent Foods Ltd  UKET 3201960/2020 Mr Kubilius was employed as a delivery driver by Kent Foods Ltd (Kent). Kent’s employee handbook required courteous treatment of clients and that employees take all reasonable steps to safeguard their own health and safety and that of others as a result of their actions at work. Its driver’s handbook required customer instruction regarding PPE to be followed. Mr Kubilius worked at Kent’s Basildon depot where the majority of the work involved travel to and from the Thames refinery site of Tate & Lyle (Tate).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tate required face masks to be worn at the Thames refinery site and all visitors were issued with a face mask on arrival. On 21 May 2020, despite being asked by two Tate employees, Mr Kubilius refused to wear a face mask while he was in the cab of his vehicle. He was told that without one, droplets from his mouth were going to land on peoples’ faces due to his elevated position in his cab and that Tate’s rules required him to wear a face mask until he left its site. Mr Kubilius maintained his refusal, arguing that his cab was his own area and that wearing a face mask was not a legal requirement. Tate reported the incident to Kent and banned Mr Kubilius from its site. Following an investigation, Mr Kubilius was invited to a disciplinary hearing into the allegation that, in refusing to comply with Tate’s instruction regarding PPE, he had breached the requirements to maintain good relationships with clients and to co-operate to ensure a safe working environment. Mr Kubilius was summarily dismissed.
An employment tribunal held that the dismissal had been fair. Kent had a genuine belief that Mr Kubilius had been guilty of misconduct having carried out a reasonable investigation into facts that were not in significant dispute. It had acted reasonably in treating the alleged misconduct as a sufficient reason for dismissal. While another employer might have chosen to issue a warning, dismissal fell within the range of reasonable responses. Kent had been entitled to take account of the importance of maintaining good relationships with its clients, Mr Kubilius’s continued insistence that he had done nothing wrong (which caused concern as to his future conduct) and the practical difficulties arising from his being banned from Tate’s site.
Discrimination: Christian’s removal from office for being publicly outspoken against homosexuality and same-sex couple adoption was not discriminatory
Two cases were brought before the Court of Appeal based on the same sequence of events and with the same Appellant, Mr Richard Page. The appeals were heard consecutively at the same hearing but two separate judgments were given. (Page v NHS Trust Development Authority  EWCA Civ 255 and Page v Lord Chancellor and another  EWCA Civ 254.) Mr Page was a Non-Executive Director of the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, which is responsible for the delivery of mental health services in Kent. He gave media interviews, including two on national television, in which he expressed his personal views based on his devout Christianity that, it is always in the best interests of every child to be brought up by a mother and a father, and therefore he did not consider it was appropriate for a child to be adopted by a single parent or same sex couple. He also made it clear that he thought that homosexual activity was wrong and that he did not agree with same-sex marriage.
His appointment with the NHS Trust was for a four-year term. Following an investigation the authority that dealt with terminations made findings which would normally have led to the termination of Mr Page’s appointment as a Director. In fact, by the time that it made its decision his current term had expired, but the practical effect of its findings was to prevent him from applying to serve a further term or serving as a Non-Executive Director of a different Trust.
Mr Page was also a magistrate, sitting on the Central Kent bench, where he was a member of the family panel. In December 2014, following a formal disciplinary process, he was reprimanded by the Lord Chief Justice as a result of an incident in which he declined to agree to the adoption of a child by a same-sex couple. The reprimand was reported in the press, and it is clear that Mr Page had spoken to reporters about it and expressed his views about same-sex adoption. Mr Page did not inform the NHS Trust or the authority about the disciplinary action taken against him by the Lord Chief Justice or about his contacts with the press.
Mr Page commenced proceedings against the authority on the basis that the termination decision, and the suspension and investigation which led to it, constituted unlawful discrimination and harassment by reference to his religion or belief, and also victimisation, contrary to Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010.
The Court of Appeal held that the employment tribunal was entitled to find that the authority did not discriminate against a Christian non-executive director, Mr Page, on religious grounds when it decided not to renew his term after he spoke out in public against homosexuality and same-sex couple adoption. The Court also held that the tribunal had been entitled to find that Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (freedom of religion) was not engaged but, if it had been, it would not have been breached because any limitation placed on the right to freedom of religion in this case was justified as being necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. There was no direct discrimination because Mr Page was removed for repeatedly speaking to the media without first informing the Trust, despite repeated requests to seek permission, and not because of his religious belief. There had been no indirect discrimination because however a provision, criterion or practice may have been formulated, it was hard to see how the tribunal’s conclusion on justification in relation to Article 9 would not similarly apply to the indirect discrimination claim. There had been no victimisation because the protected acts relied on by Mr Page had not been the reason for the action taken against him.
In concluding remarks, the court observed that there are circumstances in which it is right to expect Christians (and those of other faiths) who work for an institution, especially if they hold a high-profile position, to accept some limitations on how they express their beliefs in public on matters of particular sensitivity. Whether such limitations are justified in a particular case can only be judged by a careful assessment of all the relevant circumstances in order to strike a fair balance between the rights of the individual and the legitimate interests of the institution they work for.
In the other case before the Court of Appeal, Mr Page argued he had suffered victimisation when he was removed from office as a magistrate following his media interviews. The Court, however, found that the only issue on the appeal was whether Mr Page had been removed as a magistrate because he had complained about potential religion and belief discrimination in relation to earlier disciplinary proceedings against him. The Court upheld the finding that this had not been the reason for his removal. He had been removed because he had declared publicly that, in dealing with cases involving adoption by same-sex couples, he would proceed not on the basis of the law and the evidence, but on the basis of his own preconceived beliefs about such adoptions. His removal was lawful under the Equality Act 2010 and involved no breach of his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Court reached its decision without needing to hear the respondents’ submissions. Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused.
Working time: When standby periods can count as working time
In DJ v Radiotelevizija Slovenija (Case C-344/19) EU:C:2021:182 the ECJ has held that a period of standby would not, in its entirety, be working time under the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) only because a worker was required to be contactable by telephone and able to return to their workplace, if necessary, within a time limit of one hour, while being able (but not required) to stay in accommodation provided by their employer. However, it would be for the referring national court to assess the facts of the case, including the consequences of the time limit and the average frequency of activity during standby periods, since these might establish that the constraints imposed on the worker objectively and very significantly affected their ability to manage their time and devote that time to their own interests. Limited opportunities to pursue leisure activities within the immediate vicinity of the workplace was not relevant to that assessment.
The constraints that may be taken into account when deciding whether a period of standby is working time are those imposed on the worker by national law, a collective agreement or by the employer pursuant to either the worker’s contract or the employer’s system of dividing standby time between workers. By contrast, organisational difficulties that a period of standby may generate for the worker, which are not the result of such constraints but are, for example, the consequence of natural factors or of the worker’s own free choice, may not be taken into account.
In this case, a worker who spent time at two television transmission centres situated in mountains in Slovenia argued that time he spent on standby during which he had to be contactable by telephone and able to return to the transmission centre within one hour was working time. While he was not required to remain at the workplace, the geographical location of the transmission centres meant that he had to do so while he was on standby. Consequently, he had limited opportunities for leisure activities and stayed in on-site accommodation provided by his employer that he was entitled (but not required) to use.
TUPE: Tribunal erred in ordering re-engagement by new service provider it identified as successor employer
In Greater Glasgow Health Board v Neilson  UKEATS/0013/20 the EAT has held that a tribunal made a number of errors when, in a claim for unfair dismissal in the context of a TUPE transfer, it ordered re-engagement of the claimant by the new service provider who had not been a party to proceedings on the basis that it was a successor employer.
Given the tribunal’s finding that the claimant had been assigned to an organised grouping that had transferred to the new service provider, there was no basis in law on which the tribunal could have properly ordered any remedy against the respondent in respect of the claimant’s dismissal. The case was remitted for a fresh tribunal to consider remedy in connection with which the claimant would need to consider whether to apply to join the new service provider as a respondent.
The tribunal had also erred when it made an order that the claimant should be re-engaged by the new service provider as a successor employer as defined by the provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Referring to the EAT’s decision in Dafiaghor-Olomu v Community Integrated Care and Cornerstone Community Care UKEATS/0001/17, the EAT noted that the circumstances in which there is a successor employer following a TUPE transfer will be very limited.
Workers: Uber commits to paying drivers a minimum hourly wage during trips
Following last month’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that its drivers are workers under UK employment legislation, Uber has announced that from 17 March 2021 all of its drivers, irrespective of their age, will receive at least the National Living Wage (NLW), after expenses, once they have accepted a trip request (see February’s newsletter). No mention has been made of compensation for past entitlements and drivers will not be paid at this rate when they are not carrying out trips.
The pay rate, amounting to £8.72 per hour, will create an earnings floor (not an earnings ceiling) and has been introduced alongside automatic enrolment into a pension plan, which both Uber and its drivers will contribute to. All drivers will receive paid holiday time based on 12.07% of their earnings, paid on a fortnightly basis, as well as free insurance to cover sickness, injury and parental payments. This insurance cover was introduced in 2018. Uber has confirmed that drivers will still be able to choose when and where they drive.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain is calling on HMRC to enforce the Supreme Court ruling and ensure that drivers receive a minimum rate of pay from the moment they log onto the app, not only when they are carrying out trips.
Spring Budget: Employment issues
On 3 March 2021, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, delivered the Spring 2021 Budget. The announcements relevant to those involved in employment law mainly concern ongoing support during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is being extended until the end of September 2021. Furloughed employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked but employers will be required to make a contribution towards the cost of unworked hours of 10% in July and 20% in August and September.
- The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is also being extended with a fourth grant covering the period February to April 2021 and a fifth and final grant covering May to September 2021.
- The Chancellor also announced investment in a Taxpayer Protection Taskforce to combat fraud within COVID-19 support packages, including the CJRS and SEISS.
- There will be temporary continuation of tax exemptions for COVID-19 tests and home office expenses (see below), and of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme while sickness levels remain high.
- Looking to the future, the Chancellor made announcements about increased support for traineeships and apprenticeships.
COVID-19: Temporary tax and NICs exemptions extended and vehicle benefit charges increased
As promised in the Spring 2021 Budget, on 8 March 2021, Regulations were made extending the temporary tax exemption for employer reimbursement of home office expenses to the tax year 2021-22. The exemption covers the cost of equipment purchased by the employee for the sole purpose of enabling the employee to work from home due to COVID-19. Corresponding Regulations (NICs Regulations), ensuring that such reimbursement is disregarded for NICs purposes, were also made on 8 March 2021.
The NICs Regulations also extend the temporary disregard of employer-reimbursed coronavirus antigen test costs to the tax year 2021-22. The corresponding income tax exemption for that reimbursement will be introduced in the Finance Bill 2021.
Additionally, as anticipated following the government’s written statement on 4 March 2021, an Order was made to increase the van benefit charge and fuel benefit charges for company vehicles. The increased charges take effect from 6 April 2021 as follows:
- Flat-rate van benefit charge: £3,500 (increased from £3,490).
- Multiplier for the car fuel benefit charge: £24,600 (increased from £24,500).
- Flat-rate van fuel benefit charge: £669 (increased from £666).
COVID-19: ACAS updates working safely guidance regarding testing and vaccination
ACAS has updated its “Working Safely During Coronavirus” guidance to provide further information about workplace testing and vaccination for COVID-19. The page entitled “Testing staff for coronavirus” contains a new section setting out what it would be good practice for employers to discuss with staff when agreeing to implement workplace testing. This includes how testing would work, how staff will get their test results and how the employer plans to use and store testing data in line with the UK GDPR. If staff are concerned about testing, the guidance suggests that it may help for employers to consider paying them their usual rate of pay for time off after a positive test or furloughing them. However, some have suggested it is unclear whether the CJRS can be used in this way.
The guidance now also contains a page dedicated to “Getting the coronavirus vaccine for work” which includes a section on how to support staff to get the vaccine. This highlights similar points for discussion as in relation to workplace testing and suggests that employers could consider offering paid time off for vaccination appointments and full pay (rather than SSP) if staff are off sick because of vaccine side effects. The guidance advises that, in most circumstances, it is best for employers to support staff to get the vaccine without making it a requirement. However, if an employer feels it is important for staff to be vaccinated, they should consult with staff. Where further steps are necessary, these should be recorded in writing (for example, in a policy).
Interestingly, several points which were previously contained in the guidance have now been removed. In particular, the guidance no longer states that:
- Employers cannot force staff to be vaccinated.
- Employers should only make getting the vaccine mandatory if it is necessary for someone to do their job.
- That, if an employer believes that an employee’s reason for refusing a vaccine is unreasonable, this may in some circumstances be a disciplinary issue.
The removal of these points perhaps suggests an acknowledgement that they are not straightforward. Nevertheless, these are still likely to be issues that employers will need to grapple with over the coming months.
COVID-19: EHRC suspends enforcement of 2020-21 gender pay gap reporting deadlines for six months
In light of the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has confirmed that gender pay gap enforcement action for the reporting year 2020-21 will be suspended until 5 October 2021.
Under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/2260) and the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/172), public sector bodies and private sector employers would have been required to submit their gender pay gap reports by 30 March and 4 April respectively. The suspension of enforcement action effectively means that employers have an additional six months to meet their reporting obligations for 2020-21.
The EHRC has described the delay as striking a balance between supporting businesses through challenging times and enforcing the important gender pay gap reporting obligations. Employers are encouraged by the EHRC to report before October 2021 where possible.
Gender Pay Gap: Female financial services directors earn 66% less than male counterparts
Research conducted by law firm Fox & Partners has revealed that female directors working in the UK’s biggest financial services firms earn an average yearly wage of £247,100, 66% lower than the £722,300 earned by male directors.
The research suggests that the significant gender pay gap is indicative of the limited opportunities open to women looking to secure higher paid executive roles at FTSE 100 and 250 firms. According to the data, 86% of the female company directors accounted for were in non-executive roles which receive lower pay and encompass fewer daily responsibilities.
Equality: Fifth Hampton-Alexander report on gender balance in FTSE leadership
On 24 February 2021 the Hampton-Alexander Review published its fifth and final annual report on improving gender balance in FTSE leadership.
The report states that as at 11 January 2021:
- Women held 36.2% of FTSE 100 board positions (up from 32.4% in 2019), but 32 FTSE 100 companies had not yet achieved the 33% target.
- Women held 33.2% of FTSE 250 board positions (up from 29.6%), but 139 FTSE 250 companies had not yet achieved the 33% target.
- Across the FTSE 350 there were only 39 female chairs (11 in the FTSE 100), 89 female SIDs (23 in the FTSE 100) and 17 female CEOs (8 in the FTSE 100). There were only 76 female executive directors (31 in the FTSE 100), being 12.1% of executive directors in the FTSE 350.
As of 28 January, the FTSE 350 no longer had any all-male boards, but still had 16 companies with only one woman on the board.
Racism: Rise in BME unemployment is double that of white Britons
The TUC’s analysis, as reported by the Guardian, of recently published ONS data has revealed that the overall unemployment rate for BME (black and minority ethnic) groups rose from 5.8% in the final quarter of 2019 to 9.5% in 2020. This growth rate is double that recorded for white people whose unemployment figures rose from a much lower 3.4% to 4.5% in the same period. It argues that the data serves as a “mirror to the structural racism” currently at play in Britain.
Charitable trust ‘Hope Not Hate’ has emphasised the role of COVID-19 in escalating the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) unemployment crisis. According to a poll it recently conducted, one in five BAME people had lost their jobs, with 22% blaming the pandemic for their unemployment.
Flexible Working: Minister for Women and Equalities calls for flexible working to be normalised
The Government Equalities Office has published a report by the government-backed Behavioural Insights Team and jobs website Indeed, Encouraging employers to advertise jobs as flexible, which revealed that job adverts which offer flexible working increase applications by up to 30%.The research, which analysed nearly 20 million applications and is the largest of its kind ever conducted in the UK, shows greater transparency in job adverts would create at least 174,000 flexible jobs to the UK economy per year.
Almost 40% of employees worked from home in 2020, and the appetite for flexibility hit new heights during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has shown that 9 out of 10 jobseekers want increased flexibility, be it remote working (60%), flexitime (54%) or reduced hours (26%).
Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss MP, called for employers to make flexible working a standard option for employees. She argues this would boost productivity and morale and improve the employment prospects of women (who are twice as likely as men to work flexibly) and those who live outside major cities.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
Employment Law Newsletter – November 2020
- Health & Safety: UK government in breach of EU law to protect workers, not just employees
- Tribunals: No apparent bias or unfairness where lay member sat on two related tribunals
- Indirect Discrimination: The ‘costs-plus’ rule justification
- Contract: Firm could rely on manager’s repudiatory conduct to justify summary termination despite itself being in breach of contract
- Indirect Discrimination: Permission for judicial review granted in SEISS indirect sex discrimination case
- COVID-19: New government guidance on using volunteers during the pandemic
- COVID-19: ONS finds employers prioritise highest paid furloughed workers for pay top up
- COVID-19: Advice for employers on how to manage employees suffering from ‘Long Covid’
- Gender Pay Gap: ONS data reveals gender pay gap reduction to 7.4%
- Data Protection: ICO fines Marriott International £18.4m and British Airways £20m
Health & Safety: UK government in breach of EU law to protect workers, not just employees
In The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain v The Secretary of State for Work & Pensions and others  EWHC 3050 (Admin) the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWUGB) brought an application for judicial review on behalf of its members, against the UK government. The union, whose membership largely comprises low-paid, migrant workers and workers in the “gig economy”, brought this case because many of these workers are taxi, private hire, bus and coach drivers, who are at increased risk due to Covid-19, and the case highlights this.
The IWUGB’s claim sought declarations that the UK government failed properly to transpose into domestic law two EU Directives (Directive 89/391/EC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the health and safety of workers at work (aka “the Framework Directive”) and another made under powers conferred by the Framework Directive – Directive 89/656/EC on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment at the workplace (aka “the PPE Directive”)) on the basis that the UK legislation, when transposed, protected only ’employees’ rather than the broader category of ‘workers’, thus leaving workers without the protection the EU law guarantees.
The Framework Directive sets out to protect employees and workers and is the source of the protections in s.44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, for employees who leave their workplace or take action in circumstances of serious and imminent danger. The PPE Directive is the source of the rules in Regulation 4(1) of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 that an employer must provide PPE if the risks of an activity cannot otherwise be avoided. The gap has existed in law since 1992 but it was not until the Covid pandemic that the risks it produced had been significantly highlighted.
The High Court considered other Directives and cases, and concluded that the definition of worker for the purposes of these Directives should be the same as used in other Directives, such as those on free movement, equal pay, and working time. Therefore, the legislation did not give the same level of protection to workers as employees, and the court granted a declaration to that effect. This is a significant judgment. The government now has to choose whether to appeal this decision, or if not, legislation will be required to extend the scope of the protections to include the broader category of workers. A formal response from the government is due shortly.
Tribunals: No apparent bias or unfairness where lay member sat on two related tribunals
In Lyfar-Cisse v Brighton And Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust  UKEAT 0100_19_2810 the EAT had to consider whether the fact that the same lay member sat concurrently on two separate tribunal panels considering claims which involved the same parties gave rise to apparent bias and thus unfairness? And, if so, had the Appellant waived the right to take the point?
The Claimant had brought two claims against her employer. One, for direct race discrimination on the grounds of race and victimisation was heard before EJ Bryant QC, and the other, brought a few months later for unfair dismissal, was heard before EJ Baron. Tribunal panels usually consist of an employment judge and two lay people, who are not legally qualified. One of the lay members (Ms Campbell) sat in both cases. In addition, an overlap arose because both tribunals were adjudicating upon issues which either referenced or related to the decision made by a Ms Cashman (chair of the disciplinary meeting).
In dismissing both appeals, the judge, Lord Fairley, clearly found little overlap, commenting that a “fair minded and informed observer…” would not have seen a real possibility of bias in the circumstances, but would have concluded that the tribunals were properly trying to determine the issues before them. Nothing that Ms Campbell learned about Ms Cashman’s decision in the first tribunal could have affected her decision making in the second.
Indirect Discrimination: The ‘costs-plus’ rule justification
In Heskett v Secretary of State for Justice  EWCA Civ 1487, a probation officer brought a claim against the MoJ for indirect age discrimination because the Ministry changed its pay structure resulting in employees taking a longer time to make their way up the pay scale. This meant, effectively, that Mr Heskett, over the long term, earnt less than his longer serving (and therefore typically older) colleagues. The MoJ had made this change in order to meet a cap on increases in public sector pay.
In Cross v British Airways  IRLR 423 it was held that cost grounds can properly be a factor for an employer objectively justifying indirect discrimination, if combined with other reasons. Cost considerations alone are not sufficient to justify a discriminatory provision, criterion or practice for indirect discrimination. This became known as the “costs-plus” rule, which was broadened in Woodcock v Cumbria Primary Care Trust  EWCA Civ 330 by focusing on the issue of how the employer’s “legitimate aim” is identified. The Claimant, Mr Heskett, argued in this case, however, that the MoJ’s aim to save costs could not amount to a legitimate aim, and therefore the discriminatory effect of the new pay structure was unjustifiable. The tribunal found that the pay progression policy was prima facie discriminatory, but that it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim and therefore justified, and the EAT agreed, so Mr Heskett appealed to the Court of Appeal.
After much consideration, the Court of Appeal found that cost alone is not sufficient to justify some action or rule which would otherwise amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of age, but it can be a legitimate aim for the purpose of a justification defence if the employer uses it combined with something else such as the “need to reduce its expenditure, and specifically its staff costs, in order to balance its books” – Lord Justice Underhill at para.98. Mr Heskett’s appeal was therefore dismissed on all grounds. The decision established that the need to operate within a budget or balance the books should be treated as a legitimate aim that is more than just saving cost.
Contract: Firm could rely on manager’s repudiatory conduct to justify summary termination despite itself being in breach of contract
In Palmeri & Others v Charles Stanley and Co Ltd  EWHC 2934 (QB) the High Court has held that a firm was entitled to rely on a stockbroker’s repudiatory conduct to justify the summary termination of his contract, despite the firm itself being in repudiatory breach. Mr Palmeri was a self-employed investment manager contracted to Charles Stanley & Co Ltd, with a three-month notice period and no PILON clause (pay in lieu of notice). The firm decided to change its operating model to take a larger portion of Mr Palmeri’s revenues. This was resisted by Mr Palmeri. At a meeting on 21 April 2017, the firm offered him an ultimatum: sign the new terms there and then, or leave immediately with pay in lieu of notice. Mr Palmeri reacted furiously and verbally abused the managers present, as well as the firm generally. He then said that he would accept the new terms under protest, for the duration of his notice period. However, his abusive rhetoric escalated and the firm withdrew the offer of new terms and summarily terminated his contract.
Mr Palmeri issued a claim for breach of contract in relation to the summary termination. He also alleged that the failure to allow him the opportunity for an orderly transition of his clients’ business was a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. The firm sought to rely on Mr Palmeri’s repudiatory conduct at the meeting, as well as several serious regulatory compliance failures during his engagement, which were only discovered after termination.
The High Court found that the firm had had no contractual right to present Mr Palmeri with the ultimatum in April 2017, since it had no right to make a payment in lieu of notice. However, Mr Palmeri’s conduct as a whole, including his outburst at the meeting and the history of regulatory issues, amounted to serious misconduct and a breach of the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence, justifying summary termination. The fact that the firm had been poised to deny Mr Palmeri his notice period did not affect its entitlement to rely on the repudiatory conduct that ensued or was later discovered. The court therefore did not need to consider Mr Palmeri’s claim to an implied right to an “orderly transition” of business.
Indirect Discrimination: Permission for judicial review granted in SEISS indirect sex discrimination case
Pregnant Then Screwed, a charity that supports, promotes and protects the employment rights of pregnant women and mothers, announced on 6 November 2020 that it has been granted permission for judicial review against the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The charity will argue that the Chancellor’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), introduced in April 2020, indirectly discriminates against self-employed women who took maternity leave between 2016 and 2019. It argues that, because the SEISS does not account for the subsequent reduction in self-employed women’s average income, they are entitled to smaller grants than their peers. The charity has devised three grounds to its challenge:
- That the SEISS calculation clause violates Article 14 (the right to protection from discrimination) read in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No.1 (the right to property) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The SEISS calculation clause is indirectly discriminatory, breaching section 19 of the Equality Act 2010.
- The SEISS scheme does not comply with the public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
The application for judicial review followed the charity’s decision to send a pre-action protocol letter to the Chancellor, whose legal team responded by correlating maternity leave to a sabbatical or any other type of leave. It is estimated that as many as 75,000 women may have been affected by the alleged discrimination.
COVID-19: New government guidance on using volunteers during the pandemic
On 13 November 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published new guidance for organisations and groups in England on how to safely and effectively involve volunteers in their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance, which reflects current lockdown restrictions:
- Encourages those who can volunteer from home to do so. It then says that people can volunteer outside their home (including within a workplace, unless it has been ordered to close) if they are unable to volunteer from home, don’t need to self-isolate, are not clinically extremely vulnerable, and follow social distancing or (if volunteering in a workplace) COVID-secure guidance.
While this also applies to those who are clinically vulnerable, including those aged 70 and over, the guidance warns that such volunteers may require additional support to follow social distancing rules and minimise contact with others, and should be especially careful. Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised not to volunteer outside their home.
- Warns that no one should be compelled by their organisation or group to volunteer outside their home. Volunteering is a personal choice.
- Says that, while volunteering, people can meet in groups of any size from different households, indoors or outdoors, but must follow social distancing guidance and observe the three key behaviours (hand washing, wearing face coverings and giving space).
- Reminds employees furloughed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that they can, during the hours they are on furlough, volunteer for another employer or organisation, but that they are not permitted to volunteer for their own employer or an organisation linked to, or associated with, it. These rules have not changed, despite calls from the sector for the employees furloughed by charities to be allowed to perform voluntary work for them.
- Reminds those using volunteers of their duty of care to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that volunteers are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Separate guidance has been issued on volunteering in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
COVID-19: Advice for employers on how to manage employees suffering from ‘Long Covid’
With thousands of people still unwell months after contracting coronavirus, People Management asked HR experts, wellbeing specialists and employment lawyers how organisations can support employees suffering from the condition now termed ‘Long Covid’. The main advice is that the situation should be discussed openly with employees, who should be treated on a case-by-case basis as with any other medical condition, and use occupational health as a guide to accommodate adjustments. However, it is too soon to be labelling coronavirus as a disability.
COVID-19: ONS finds employers prioritise highest paid furloughed workers for pay top up
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that employers prioritised paying full pay to top earners during the COVID-19 pandemic in contrast with the UK’s lowest paid workers who were five times more likely to be furloughed with reduced pay.
The data collected covered a range of demographic indicators; almost a quarter of 18 to 21 year olds were furloughed on reduced wages compared with only 9% of 40 to 59 year olds and 39% of hospitality workers were furloughed on reduced pay compared with 3% in professional jobs. It also found that there were 2,043,000 jobs where employees aged 16 or over were paid below the legal minimum in April 2020, more than four times the 409,000 jobs a year earlier.
Gender Pay Gap: ONS data reveals gender pay gap reduction to 7.4%
Figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the UK’s gender pay gap, calculated using the median hourly earnings of full-time employees, has fallen to 7.4% from 9% in 2019. This means that, as of April 2020, female workers earned 92.6% of male employees’ hourly pay. This reduction was reflected across age groups, with the gender pay gap for full-time workers under-40 particularly low at “close to zero”. Interestingly, the most significant reduction in the gender pay gap occurred among managers, directors and senior officials, falling from 16.3% in 2019 to 9.9% in 2020. The ONS highlighted the fact that “this occupation group has the highest median pay of any occupation … and therefore has a strong impact on the gender pay gap” overall.
The Government Equalities Office and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission suspended gender pay gap reporting regulations back in March 2020 as a result of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this data takes furloughed workers’ pay into account, the ONS warned that the impact of the pandemic may not be fully reflected.
Data Protection: ICO fines Marriott International £18.4m and British Airways £20m
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a monetary penalty notice fining Marriott International Inc (Marriott) £18.4 million for breaching its data security obligations under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), leaving about 339 million guest records worldwide exposed to a cyber-attack on Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc’s (Starwood) reservation database in 2014. Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, but the exposure of customer data was only discovered in 2018, at which time Marriott notified the ICO and updated its systems.
The ICO traced the cyber-attack back to 2014, but the penalty only relates to the breach from 25 May 2018, when the GDPR became applicable. As the breach occurred before the UK left the EU, the ICO investigated this on behalf of all of the EU authorities as a lead supervisory authority under the GDPR.
The amount imposed is a significant reduction on the £99,200,96 million the ICO announced it intended to fine Marriott in July 2019. As part of the regulatory process, the ICO considered representations from Marriott, the steps Marriott took to mitigate the effects of the incident and the economic impact of COVID-19 on their business before setting a final penalty.
This fine illustrates the importance of carrying out thorough due diligence when making a corporate acquisition and, as part of this, to assess how personal data is protected. It follows hot on the heels of the ICO fining British Airways £20 million earlier this month for failing to protect the personal and financial details of more than 400,000 of its customers in a cyber-breach, the largest fine imposed to date for a breach of the GDPR. An ICO investigation found the airline was processing a significant amount of personal data without adequate security measures in place. This failure broke data protection law and, subsequently, BA was the subject of a cyber-attack during 2018, which it did not detect for more than two months. ICO investigators found BA ought to have identified weaknesses in its security and resolved them with security measures that were available at the time.
On 18 August 2020, Martin Bryant filed a representative class action in the High Court (Bryant v Marriott International Inc and others, case number QB-2020-002882). The claim for compensation is being brought on an opt-out basis by automatically including guests who made a reservation at one of the former Starwood hotels before 10 September 2018.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employment Law Newsletter – October 2020
- Age discrimination: Establishing group and individual disadvantage for indirect discrimination
- Vicarious Liability: Employee’s practical joke in the workplace goes too far for vicarious liability
- Equality Act: Christian employee’s beliefs against gender fluidity were protected beliefs
- Equality Act: Gender fluid employee awarded £180,000 in compensation following landmark discrimination case
- Whistleblowing: Imposing new contract was a one-off act, not an act extending over a period
- COVID-19: New regulations make self-isolation legal requirement and introduce fines
- COVID-19: Two-thirds of employers see rising interest in flexible working from male employees and better relationships all round
- HR Guidance: CIPD and EHRC publish guide on supporting employees suffering domestic abuse
- Gender Pay Gap: UK Gender Pay Gap legislation much less ”robust” than in other countries, report finds
- Equality: The number of executive positions occupied by women remains “stubbornly low”
- Anti-racism: MHFA England guidance on creating anti-racist workplaces published
- Ethnic diversity: CBI sets new targets to increase racial and ethnic diversity while Legal & General use their vote to force boardroom change
- Data Protection: H&M fined EUR35 million in Germany for GDPR breach after storing “extensive” employee data
Age discrimination: Establishing group and individual disadvantage for indirect discrimination
In Ryan v South West Ambulance Services NHS Trust  UKEAT/0213/19 the EAT has held that an employee was indirectly discriminated against on grounds of age on the basis that she was excluded from applying for a promotion because, while it was open to her to apply, she was not in the employer’s “talent pool“. The pool had been established as a quick way of finding talented employees to fill vacancies at short notice and without having to advertise externally.
The employee established that there had been a group disadvantage since there were statistics to show that there was a reduced likelihood, due to age, of employees aged 55 and above being in the pool. The EAT also held that she was personally disadvantaged because she was not considered for roles that she would otherwise have been considered for because the employer had looked to fill the vacancies from the pool. The employer argued that she had not tried to access the pool by all routes available to her, but having failed to adduce evidence of this, could not prove that the discriminatory effect of the rule was not at play in her particular case.
The EAT also reminded the parties of the importance of accuracy in how discrimination claims are articulated and of the need to identify group disadvantage before considering individual disadvantage. In this case, neither of the parties had identified in the case management summary or at any time after, that there was inconsistency between the group and the individual disadvantage which was the subject of the complaint.
Vicarious Liability: Employee’s practical joke in the workplace goes too far for vicarious liability
In Chell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Ltd  EWHC 2613 (QB) the High Court has upheld a county court decision that an employer was not negligent or vicariously liable for the actions of an employee whose practical joke unintentionally caused injury to a contractor at work. The court held that it was expecting too much of an employer to devise and implement a health and safety policy, or other policy or site rules, which descend to the level of horseplay or the playing of practical jokes. It accepted that the contractor had previously made his supervisor aware that there were rising tensions between employees and contractors on-site. However, there was no foreseeable risk of injury as tensions were not so serious as to suggest the threat of violence or confrontation. Increased supervision to prevent horseplay, ill-discipline or malice was therefore not a reasonable step to expect this employer to have identified and taken.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in WM Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants  UKSC 12 (in which the Supreme Court held that Morrisons was not vicariously liable for the actions of an employee who, without authorisation and in a deliberate attempt to harm his employer, uploaded payroll data to the internet using personal equipment at home) the court held that, although the incident happened in the workplace, the employer was not vicariously liable for the employee’s actions. Those actions were unconnected with any instruction given to the employee in connection with his work and did not in any way advance the purpose of his employer. The workplace merely provided the opportunity to carry out the prank, rather than it being within the employee’s work activities.
Equality Act: Christian employee’s beliefs against gender fluidity were protected beliefs
In the case of Higgs v Farmor’s School ET/1401264/19 an employment tribunal has held that a Christian employee’s beliefs that gender cannot be fluid and that an individual cannot change their biological sex or gender were worthy of respect in a democratic society and could therefore be protected beliefs under the Equality Act 2010. However, the tribunal held that the employee had not been directly discriminated against or harassed because of those protected beliefs. Mrs Higgs worked as a pastoral administrator and work experience manager at Farmor’s School. She had been disciplined and dismissed for gross misconduct for breaching the school’s conduct policy because of the inflammatory language used in her Facebook posts which could have led readers to believe that she held homophobic and transphobic beliefs. Mrs Higgs claimed that she had been directly discriminated against and harassed on the ground of religion and that her beliefs had resulted in her mistreatment.
The tribunal considered that it could distinguish this case from the earlier tribunal decisions of Forstater v CGD Europe and others ET/2200909/2019 and Mackereth v Department for Work and Pensions and another ET/1304602/18 because the employee’s beliefs in this case were not likely to result in discrimination against members of the trans community. In the Mackereth case, the tribunal held that a Christian doctor’s beliefs that God only created males and females and that a person cannot choose their gender, his lack of belief that an individual can be trans, and his conscientious objection to the concept of trans people, were views incompatible with human dignity which conflicted with the fundamental rights of others and so were not protected religious or philosophical beliefs under the Equality Act 2010. In the Forstater case, the tribunal held that similar beliefs held by a consultant were not worthy of respect in a democratic society and therefore failed the test in Nicholson (i.e. guidance as to what beliefs should be protected, such as genuinely held, a belief not an opinion or viewpoint, weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour, have a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance, be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others).
The tribunal noted that those decisions were not binding on it and considered that it was a major consideration of the tribunal in both of those cases that the belief held could result in the claimant unlawfully discriminating against a trans person. The tribunal held that it “could see no reason why the belief professed by Mrs Higgs should necessarily result in unlawful action by her” and that “there was no reason to believe she would behave towards any person in a way such as to deliberately and gratuitously upset or offend them”.
Equality Act: Gender fluid employee awarded £180,000 in compensation following landmark discrimination case
In Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover Limited  UKET 1304471/2018, Ms Taylor was an engineer at Land Rover who underwent gender reassignment and became a gender fluid employee. Gender Reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. She was treated so badly as a result of this, she subsequently made claims of harassment, direct discrimination, victimisation, and constructive unfair dismissal against Land Rover.
In his judgment for the Claimant, Judge Hughes said it was appropriate
to award aggravated damages in this case because of the egregious way the claimant was treated and because of the insensitive stance taken by the respondent in defending these proceedings. We are also minded to consider making recommendations in order to alleviate the claimant’s injury to feelings by ensuring the respondent takes positive steps to avoid this situation arising again. The claimant’s compensation shall be uplifted by 20% because of respondent’s complete failure to comply with the ACAS Code of Practice in relation to the claimant’s grievance about short term measures to assist her transitioning.Judge Hughes in Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover Limited  UKET 1304471/2018
On 2 October 2020, Ms Taylor was awarded £180,000 in compensation at a remedy hearing following the judgment where it was held that gender fluid and non-binary people were protected from discrimination in the workplace under the Equality Act 2010. Jaguar Land Rover has apologised to Ms Taylor and stated that it will use the outcome to inform its diversity and inclusion strategy.
Whistleblowing: Imposing new contract was a one-off act, not an act extending over a period
In Ikejiaku v British Institute of Technology Ltd  UKEAT/0243/19 the EAT has upheld a tribunal’s finding that imposing a new contract on a senior lecturer following a protected disclosure he had made about suspected tax evasion was a “one-off” act with continuing consequences, rather than an act extending over a period. This meant that time started to run on the whistleblowing detriment claim at the point when the contract was imposed, not when the lecturer was dismissed. The EAT considered the authorities on what constitutes a continuing act, which showed that a typical, but not exhaustive, example is where the employer’s act constitutes a policy or rule. It concluded that the “act” in the present case did not constitute a policy or rule, nor was there any basis for concluding that it was an act “extend[ing] over a period” under section 48(4)(a) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
However, the EAT allowed an appeal against the tribunal’s finding that the lecturer was not entitled to an uplift on the compensatory award for an automatic unfair dismissal claim, because disciplinary procedures, both generally and those contained in the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, have no application to a dismissal on the ground of a protected disclosure. While the tribunal had been correct insofar as the application for an uplift related to disciplinary procedures, on a fair reading the application also extended to the grievance section of the ACAS Code, which refers to “concerns, problems or complaints” raised by employees. The employer had accepted that a protected disclosure made the day before dismissal fell into this category and so potentially engaged the provisions of section 207A of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
COVID-19: New regulations make self-isolation legal requirement and introduce fines
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1045) came into force on 28 September. The Regulations (which only apply in England) require anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or has been officially notified by NHS Test and Trace that they have been in contact with someone who has, to self-isolate for ten or 14 days respectively.
Self-isolating workers (including agency workers) who are due to go into work must notify their employer (or the employment business or client in the case of an agency worker) that they are required to self-isolate, as soon as reasonably practicable and not later than their next working day. In the case of agency workers, the recipient of the notification must inform others in the agency chain.
Where an employer of a self-isolating worker or self-isolating agency worker is aware of the worker’s requirement to self-isolate, they must not knowingly allow them to come into work.
Anyone who unreasonably fails to self-isolate is liable to be fined between £1,000 and £10,000 for repeat offences and serious breaches. Employers also risk the same level of fines where they knowingly allow self-isolating staff to come to work without reasonable excuse.
COVID-19: Two-thirds of employers see rising interest in flexible working from male employees and better relationships all round
Two-thirds of employers have noticed a growing interest in flexible working from their male employees since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is according to a poll conducted by Working Families, which collected data from a small sample of 26 UK employers in September 2020. Experts say that increased homeworking during the pandemic may have reduced the negative stigma sometimes associated with men requesting less conventional, flexible working arrangements.
The data also suggests a longer-term shift in working practices, with more employees likely to be working flexibly or remotely for at least part of their working week, even after the pandemic has ended. The vast majority of employers also found that productivity had either remained at the same level or even improved with employees working from home. All of the employers found that relationships had improved with employees following lockdown as they now had a better understanding of their employees’ lives. In addition, all employers had offered employees with children the opportunity to work from home and flex their hours, as well as offering wellbeing support, paid leave, acceptance of children appearing on video calls, and changed deadlines and objectives to reflect caring responsibilities. It seems there can be a positive stance to be found out of these tough times, after all.
HR Guidance: CIPD and EHRC publish guide on supporting employees suffering domestic abuse
On 29 September 2020, the CIPD and EHRC published ‘Managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse: a guide for employers’. The guide recommends that employers have a clear policy in place to support employees and a framework of support made up of four steps: recognise the problem, respond appropriately to disclosure, provide support and refer to the appropriate help. It calls for an empathetic, non-judgmental approach and flexibility (for example in working hours or concerning work tasks) as two key areas for employers to focus on. In particular, as many more people are working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, employers will need to consider how to maintain support when escape routes or time apart from an abuser may be dramatically curtailed.
The guide notes that it is not for employers to solve the problem, but they should enable their employees to access professional support, whether in the form of legal or financial advice, housing support, counselling or arranging childcare. It calls for employers to provide paid leave for those struggling to do their work or who need to access essential services. The guide addresses the need for open workplace cultures to break the silence around domestic abuse and for roles and responsibilities, such as those of HR and line management, to be clear when it comes to providing support.
On 9 June 2020, BEIS launched a review of how employers and the government could better support domestic abuse survivors in the workplace. Submissions were required by 9 September 2020 and the review is expected to report by the end of 2020.
Gender Pay Gap: UK Gender Pay Gap legislation much less ”robust” than in other countries, report finds
A report entitled ‘Gender Pay Gap Reporting: a comparative analysis‘ has been published by the Fawcett Society and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, which analysed the gender pay gap reporting legislation of ten countries. The report has revealed that the UK is “unique in its light-touch approach” to tackling the gender pay gap. In particular, the related research highlighted the UK’s failure to require private employers to produce action plans for reducing their gender pay gap, with only one other country, Austria, also not requiring this.
Interestingly, the report placed the UK ahead of its peers in terms of transparency and compliance; in 2019, 100% of eligible employers reported their statistics. However, the report did call for the pay gap reporting requirement currently applicable in England, Scotland and Wales to be extended beyond companies with 250 employees or more.
Equality: The number of executive positions occupied by women remains “stubbornly low”
The ‘Female FTSE Board Report 2020’, published by Cranfield School of Management and EY, which looks at trends in female representation on FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 boards each year, has found that the record number of women on boards is failing to translate into genuine equality in senior roles. Despite significant progress in the number of non-executive directors on FTSE 100 boards (where women now account for a record 40.8% of non-executive directors), the increase in the number of executive positions being awarded to women remained “stubbornly low“. In June 2020, less than one in seven executive director roles (13.2%) were held by women, with women filling just five out of 100 chief executive roles. Women fared worse in the FTSE 250, where they held 11.3% of executive director roles.
The report warns that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse gender equality progress and notes that the unequal burden of care placed on working women during the lockdown was likely to exacerbate existing gender inequalities and the gender pay gap.
Anti-racism: MHFA England guidance on creating anti-racist workplaces published
Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA England) has collaborated with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Business in the Community (BITC) to publish guidance as part of the ‘My Whole Self campaign’. The guidance promotes the mental health and wellbeing of People of Colour and Black people in the workplace through the creation of an anti-racist environment. The guidance provides practical advice on how organisations, managers and colleagues can be better allies to People of Colour and Black people.
Ethnic diversity: CBI sets new targets to increase racial and ethnic diversity while Legal & General use their vote to force boardroom change
On 12 October 2017, the Parker Review Committee published its final report into the ethnic diversity of UK boards. It recommended that there should be at least one racially and ethnically diverse director on each FTSE 100 board by 2021 and on each FTSE 250 board by 2024. On 5 February 2020, in an update report, the Committee noted that, while companies were not yet up to speed, there had been movement and it might still be possible to meet the targets.
On 1 October 2020, the CBI announced that at the end of October it will be launching ‘Change the Race Ratio’ campaign, a campaign to increase racial and ethnic participation in British businesses. The campaign will identify four Commitments to change which are to:
- Increase racial and ethnic diversity among board members by taking action to ensure that FTSE 100 companies have at least one racially and ethnically diverse board member by the end of 2021 and FTSE 250 companies do so by 2024.
- Increase racial and ethnic diversity in senior leadership by setting clear and stretching targets and publishing them within 12 months of making the commitment.
- Be transparent by publishing a clear action plan to achieve targets and sharing progress through Annual Reports or on company websites. This should include disclosing ethnicity pay gaps by 2022 at the latest.
- Create an inclusive culture through recruitment and talent development processes, fostering safe, open and transparent dialogue, provision of mentoring, support and sponsorship, working with a more diverse set of suppliers and partners (including minority owned businesses) and through data collection and analysis.
Following this announcement, in a letter to FTSE 100 companies, Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), the UK’s biggest fund manager with a 2% to 3% stake in nearly every FTSE 100 listed company, has warned firms that there will be “voting and investment consequences” for companies who fail to diversify their senior leadership team by 2022. Currently, approximately 37% of FTSE 100 companies have all-white boards. LGIM wants all FTSE 100 boards to include at least one black, Asian or other minority ethnic (BAME) member by January 2022. If companies fail to meet that target, it has said that it would openly vote against the re-election of their chairperson or the head of their nomination committee.
Data Protection: H&M fined EUR35 million in Germany for GDPR breach after storing “extensive” employee data
On 2 October 2020, H&M received a fine of EUR35 million for monitoring and recording “extensive details” about hundreds of its employees in Nuremburg, in breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Hamburg Commission for Data Protection and the Freedom of Information revealed that the information included details of absences for vacations and sick leave, symptoms of illness and diagnoses, family issues and religious beliefs.
The Commission found that the data was able to be read by up to 50 managers and that this data was used to “obtain a detailed profile of employees for measures and decisions regarding their employment“.
H&M has also agreed to pay out compensation to employees who worked at the Nuremburg site for at least a month since May 2018.
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