Employment Law General Update – September 2022
A change in prime minister has brought about some immediate changes to laws affecting employment law, such as the Bill on which laws will be retained from the EU, repeal of the off-payroll rules (IR35) and the dropping of the Bill of Rights Bill, which was set to replace the Human Rights Act. Sadly, two reports recently demonstrate that racism and gender discrimination persist at work, while FTSE 100 company chief executives are getting a massive pay rise. Meanwhile, ACAS has published new guidance on staff suspensions.
- Brexit: Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022-23 introduced to House of Commons
- IR35: Off-Payroll Rules to be repealed by April 2023
- Human Rights: Bill of Rights Bill 2022-23 dropped by government
- Equality: New TUC report highlights prevalence of racism at work
- Discrimination: New report highlights persistence of gender discrimination in the workplace
- Pay: Chief executives of FTSE 100 companies see average pay jump of 39%
- ACAS: New guidance on staff suspensions published by ACAS
Brexit: Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022-23 introduced to House of Commons
On 22 September 2022, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022-23 was introduced to the House of Commons, and written ministerial statements were made summarising the Bill’s provisions. A full legal update on the Bill will follow. The written statements explain that the Bill includes provisions to:
- Sunset retained EU law. Retained EU law in EU-derived secondary legislation and retained direct EU legislation will expire on 31 December 2023 unless otherwise preserved. Special features of EU law will be removed from retained EU law that remains in force after that date (assimilated law), ending the principle of the supremacy of EU law, general principles of EU law and directly effective EU rights on 31 December 2023. EU interpretive features will no longer apply to assimilated law. (The sunset date can be extended until 2026 for specified pieces of legislation.)
- Reverse the priority currently given to retained direct EU legislation over domestic UK legislation passed before the end of the transition period when they are incompatible, with a power to amend the new order of priority to retain specific legislative effects where necessary in specific circumstances.
- Give domestic courts greater discretion to depart from retained EU case law, and provide new court procedures for UK and devolved law officers to refer or intervene in cases involving retained EU case law.
- Downgrade the status of retained direct principal EU legislation for amendment purposes so that it no longer has parity with Acts of Parliament.
- Give the government powers to make secondary legislation so that retained EU law or assimilated law can be amended, repealed and replaced more easily, and enable the government (via Parliament) to clarify, consolidate and restate legislation to preserve its current effect.
The government’s news story added that all required legislation relating to tax and retained EU law will be made via the Finance Bill or subordinate tax legislation, and the government will introduce a bespoke legislative approach for retained EU law concerning VAT, excise, and customs duty in a future Finance Bill.
IR35: Off-Payroll Rules to be repealed by 6 April 2023
In his autumn statement on 23 September, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced that the UK government will scrap the 2017 and 2021 reforms to the IR35 off-payroll working rules in the next Finance Act, aimed to be enacted on 6 April 2023. Addressing the House of Commons he said, “reforms to off payroll working have added unnecessary complexity and cost for many businesses.” This has come as a bit of a shock to many industry experts who have commented that it’s unheard of for a Chancellor to repeal primary tax legislation without consultation. It is just the reforms which are being axed, and not the IR35 system itself, which will likely be celebrated by independent contractors who have found the measures to have wrought havoc to their business and added unnecessary levels of additional work for both the contractors and the businesses that engage them.
IR35 reform in the public sector was introduced in 2017 meaning that public sector bodies become responsible for determining the IR35 status of contractors – the responsibility shifted from the contractor to the end client, rather than the contractor taking the responsibility. In addition, the reforms meant the liability also shifted from the contractor to the fee-paying party (often the recruiter) in the supply chain. IR35 reform in the private sector in 2021 mirrored this but applied only to medium and large businesses. Small companies remained exempt.
The repeal of the 2017 and 2021 reforms from 6 April 2023 doesn’t abolish IR35 but takes us back to the rules in place from 2000 (the Intermediaries Legislation). This puts the onus back on the worker to correctly assess their status and pay the correct amount of tax. It should be noted that for services provided before 6 April 2023, the current rules will still apply, even where the payment is made on or after 6 April 2023.
However, contractors may need to hold off rejoicing just for now. Some Tory Ministers are already claiming they may rebel against the next Finance Act if the pound falls below the dollar. Dave Chaplin, CEO of IR35 Shield, says: “When you read the financial impact of the repeal in the Government’s Growth Plan document, you’ll see that there are six billion pounds worth of reasons why all rejoicing would be premature, and why all parties in the supply chain should not be complacent as we approach April 2023, nor beyond.”
Human Rights: Bill of Rights Bill 2022-23 dropped by government
On 7 September 2022, it was reported in the press that the Bill of Rights Bill 2022-23 had been dropped by the new government headed by Liz Truss and would not progress to its second reading, which had been scheduled to take place on 12 September 2022. The Bill would have repealed the Human Rights Act 1998 and reframed the UK’s legal relationship with the ECHR, to which the UK would have remained a signatory. Press reports suggest that the government is looking at different legislative options for reform.
Equality: New TUC report highlights prevalence of racism at work
The TUC has published a report ‘Still Rigged: Racism in the UK Labour Market 2022‘, based on extensive polling, which shows that racism and racial inequality continue to be experienced in the workplace. In addition to racism impacting the types of work ethnic minority workers are employed to do, two in five people reported having experienced racism at work in the past five years. The most common types of racial harassment are racist jokes and banter (27%), being made to feel uncomfortable through use of stereotypes and appearance-based comments (26%), being bullied or harassed (21%), and racist remarks directed at the respondent or in their presence (21%). Most instances were perpetrated by fellow employees and 15% were made by a customer, client or patient. For one in six respondents, the racism was perpetrated by a manager.
Only 19% of people who experienced racist incidents reported the last incident to their employer. Nearly half of people who did not report instances of racist abuse (44%) said that they did not believe the issue would be taken seriously. Even when incidents were reported to an employer, action was taken to prevent future harassment in only 29% of instances.
The TUC has recommended that the government, employers, enforcement bodies and trade unions work together to deliver a “collective, pre-emptive response“. Specifically, the TUC suggests that the “floor of working rights” be improved for everyone, that employers have a duty to embed race equality practices in their workplaces and that there are swift and effective penalties when workers experience racism.
Discrimination: New report highlights persistence of gender discrimination in the workplace
Randstad has published a new report ‘Randstad: Gender equality in the workplace 2022 (September 2022)‘ on gender equality in the workplace. To inform the report, 6000 workers in the construction, education, healthcare and technology sectors were surveyed. The survey sought insight into the status quo of UK workplaces, the persistence of gender discrimination, how employers in these sectors support their employees and what areas workers would like to see their employers focus on in the coming year. Among the findings are statistics which show that:
- Inappropriate behaviour or comments from male colleagues had been witnessed or encountered by 72% of women surveyed.
- Only 18% of women surveyed had never experienced gender discrimination.
- 7% of women reported having been passed over for promotion due to perceived gender discrimination.
- Just under 10% said they had been offered a less important role because of their gender.
- Employers are not doing enough to support female employees during the menopause, according to 73% of the women surveyed.
The report also highlights findings that are specific to each sector. Recommendations are made in three areas; ensuring the recruitment process is inclusive, fostering an inclusive workplace culture and weaving inclusion into the employee lifecycle.
Pay: Chief executives of FTSE 100 companies see average pay jump of 39%
Research by the High Pay Centre and Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that the median average pay for CEOs of FTSE 100 companies increased by 39%, from £2.5 million in 2020 to £3.41 million in 2021. During the pandemic, many CEOs took a voluntary pay cut when employees were placed on furlough, but CEO pay has now surpassed the 2019 median of £3.25 million. A similar pay increase was found in the average wages of FTSE 250 CEOs (38%). The average bonus received by CEOs also jumped from £828,000 in 2020 to £1.4 million in 2021.
Previous research by the thinktank suggested that the pay ratios of FTSE 350 companies between CEOs and median employees would increase to new highs after the pandemic. The report shows that CEOs receive 109 times the average pay of British workers, a higher gap than in 2019 when CEOs received 107 times the average pay of British workers.
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, highlighted that the CEO pay jump comes at a time where workers are experiencing “the biggest real wage falls in 20 years.” Workers’ building dissatisfaction at significantly below inflation pay rises in the context of the current cost of living crisis is being increasingly manifested in industrial action. Strikes across multiple industries have already taken place, with further walk-outs due in the coming months.
ACAS: New guidance on staff suspensions published by ACAS
ACAS has published new guidance to advise employers on how to consider and handle staff suspensions at work, specifically during investigations. The guidance covers deciding whether to suspend someone, the process for suspending someone, supporting an employee’s mental health during suspension and pay and holiday during suspension.
ACAS recommends that because of the risk of breaching the employment contract and the stress that can be caused, a suspension should only be used when it is a reasonable way of dealing with the situation (such as while an investigation is carried out and there is a need to protect evidence, witnesses, the business, other staff or the person being investigated) and there are no appropriate alternatives. Employers should consider each situation carefully before deciding whether to suspend someone.
Suggested alternatives to suspension include:
- Changing shifts, site or working from home.
- Working with different customers or away from customers.
- Stopping working with certain systems, tools or on specific tasks.
A suspension may also be appropriate in order to protect an employee’s health and safety (such as in medical or pregnancy circumstances).
Employers should support a suspended worker by explaining the reason for the suspension, making it clear that it does not mean that it has been decided they have done anything wrong, maintaining pay and benefits, keeping the suspension as short as possible, keeping it confidential wherever possible, and staying in regular contact throughout. The worker should be informed of their suspension in person if possible. It is good practice to allow them to be accompanied at any suspension meeting and for the suspension to be confirmed in writing.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment Law Case Update – September 2022
Whilst strikes were temporarily abandoned in England as a mark of respect for the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral, the unions have not been resting. Several unions have started judicial review proceedings against the government in response to new regulations regarding the use of supply agency workers. The tribunals have been reviewing COVID-related employment issues, how far a belief in one’s football team can be stretched and protecting a woman’s right to a private life versus the rights of the claimant to a fair trial and freedom of expression. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has been considering the matter of confiscating earnings received by a CEO who got the job by lying about his experience.
- Strikes: Unions commence judicial review of regulations permitting supply of agency workers during strikes
- COVID-19: Two and a half weeks is not long enough for long COVID to become a disability
- COVID-19: Requirement for employees to exhaust holiday and TOIL before receiving further paid leave for COVID-related absences was not discriminatory
- Equality Act: Supporting a football club is not a protected philosophical belief
- Human Rights: EAT makes anonymity order to protect non-party and non-witness who was subject of false lurid sexual allegations
- Fraud: A confiscation order should strip the profit from fraudulently obtained employment
Strikes: Unions commence judicial review of regulations permitting supply of agency workers during strikes
Separate but similar judicial review proceedings have been issued by unions in response to new regulations that allow employment businesses to supply agency workers to replace striking staff.
The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/852) came into force on 21 July 2022 and have already resulted in a report by the TUC to the International Labour Organization over alleged infringement of workers’ rights to strike.
Unison issued proceedings in the High Court on 13 September 2022, arguing that the government’s decision is unfair and is based on unreliable and outdated evidence from a 2015 consultation. It also argues that the government has failed to consider Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which protects the right to freedom of association, and international labour standards on the right to strike.
On 20 September 2022, the TUC began similar proceedings in collaboration with 11 other unions, arguing that the Secretary of State failed to consult unions, in contravention with the Employment Agencies Act 1973, and that the regulations violate Article 11 of the ECHR. The teachers’ union, NASUWT, has also announced its intention to issue proceedings. The claims are all likely to be heard together.
A response is required from the Business Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, within 21 days of proceedings being issued.
COVID-19: Two and a half weeks is not long enough for long COVID to become a disability
In Quinn v Sense Scotland ETS/4111971/2021, an employment tribunal has determined that an employee who caught COVID-19 two and a half weeks before her dismissal did not have long COVID and was not disabled under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) at the relevant time.
Mrs Quinn was employed as Head of People. She tested positive for COVID-19 on or around 11 July 2021. She subsequently experienced fatigue, shortness of breath, pain and discomfort, headaches, and brain fog. These symptoms affected her everyday life and disrupted her sleep. She struggled with shopping and driving and stopped socialising and exercising. On 26 July, she contacted her GP to arrange an appointment. On 27 July, she was dismissed from her employment. She consulted with her GP on 2, 8 and 22 August, during which time she was deemed unfit to work due to ongoing symptomatic COVID-19. On 12 September, she was deemed unfit to work due to post-COVID-19 syndrome and diagnosed with long COVID.
Mrs Quinn brought a direct disability discrimination claim, among other claims. As a preliminary issue, a tribunal had to determine whether she was disabled at the time of her dismissal. She relied on the impairment of long COVID including having COVID-19 for longer than normal. She submitted that COVID-19 and long COVID are part of the same condition, and that other 50-year-old women with no underlying health conditions recovered more quickly than her after two weeks. Consequently, it could have been predicted that she would experience long COVID.
An employment tribunal found that she was not disabled under the EqA 2010 for the following reasons:
- At the time of her dismissal, she did not have long COVID. She was not diagnosed with long COVID until some six weeks later.
- While the impairment of COVID-19 had a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, this effect had lasted only two and a half weeks at the relevant time and was not long term.
- The substantial majority of people who catch COVID-19 do not develop long COVID. Accordingly, it cannot be said that the risk of developing long COVID “could well happen“.
Mrs Quinn’s case could be distinguished from that of Mr Burke, who had been absent from work with COVID-19 for nine months at the time of his dismissal.
COVID-19: Requirement for employees to exhaust holiday and TOIL before receiving further paid leave for COVID-related absences was not discriminatory
In Cowie and others v Scottish Fire and Rescue Service  EAT 121 , the EAT (Eady P) has held that it was not discriminatory for the fire service to require employees to have used up accrued holiday and time off in lieu (TOIL) before being eligible to apply for additional paid “special leave” to cover COVID-19 related absences.
Two groups of employees brought discrimination claims in relation to this requirement. One group alleged indirect sex discrimination under section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) and the other alleged discrimination arising from disability under section 15 of the EqA 2010.
The tribunal dismissed the section 19 claims because there was no evidence of group disadvantage to women. It upheld the section 15 claims, agreeing that the requirement to exhaust holiday and TOIL was unfavourable treatment. However, it did not award any compensation since there was no evidence of any injury to feelings. The claimants and the employer appealed to the EAT.
The EAT allowed the employer’s appeal. In relation to the section 15 claims, the tribunal had identified the relevant treatment as being the requirement to use up holiday and TOIL. However, this requirement only arose when the claimants sought access to paid special leave. It was wrong to separate the conditions applicable to the benefit from the benefit itself. The relevant treatment was therefore the granting of paid special leave. This was clearly favourable treatment. The treatment could have been more favourable if the conditions were removed, but it did not become unfavourable simply because it could, hypothetically, have been more favourable.
The same error arose in relation to the section 19 claims. The PCP was defined as the requirement to exhaust TOIL or annual leave. However, the PCP only operated in the context of the paid special leave policy. Since the provision of paid special leave was clearly favourable, the PCP could only amount to a disadvantage if the conditions of entitlement were artificially separated from the benefit itself.
The EAT therefore found that neither the section 15 nor the section 19 claims could succeed. Nevertheless, it considered and rejected the claimants’ grounds of appeal, finding that the tribunal had been entitled to conclude that there was not sufficient evidence:
- To show group disadvantage in the section 19 claims.
- To justify an award of compensation for injury to feelings in the section 15 claims.
Equality Act: Supporting a football club is not a protected philosophical belief
At a preliminary hearing in McClung v Doosan Babcock Ltd and others  UKET/4110538, an employment tribunal has held that supporting Rangers Football Club (Rangers) does not amount to a protected philosophical belief within the meaning of section 10(2) of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010).
Mr McClung had supported Rangers for 42 years, was a member of the club and received yearly birthday cards from them. He never missed a match and spent most of his discretionary income on attendance at games, as well as watching them on television. He believed supporting Rangers was a way of life and as important to him as attending church is for religious people.
The tribunal defined Mr McClung’s belief as being a supporter of Rangers but concluded that it was not capable of being a protected philosophical belief. While it was not in dispute that the belief was genuinely held, the tribunal concluded that the remaining Grainger criteria were not satisfied for the following reasons:
- The tribunal had regard to the explanatory notes to the EqA 2010 which provide that adherence to a football team would not be a belief capable of protection. The definition of “support” (being “actively interested in and concerned for the success of” a particular sports team) contrasted with the definition of “belief” (being “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof”). Mr McClung’s support for Rangers was akin to support for a political party, which case law had made clear does not constitute a protected philosophical belief.
- Support for a football club is akin to a lifestyle choice. It did not represent a belief as to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and had no larger consequences for humanity as a whole. There was a wide range of Rangers fans with varying reasons behind their support, shown in different ways.
- There was nothing to suggest fans had to behave, or did behave, in a similar way. Support for the Union and loyalty to the Queen were not prerequisites of being a Rangers supporter as Mr McClung had submitted. The only common factor was that fans wanted their team to do well. It therefore lacked the required characteristics of cogency, cohesion and importance.
- Support for Rangers did not invoke the same respect in a democratic society as matters such as ethical veganism or the governance of a country, which have been the subject of academic research and commentary.
Human Rights: EAT makes anonymity order to protect non-party and non-witness who was subject of false lurid sexual allegations
In Piepenbrock v London School of Economics and Political Science  EAT 119, the EAT has held that the identity of a non-party and non-witness (Ms D) was entitled to the benefit of an anonymity order. False lurid allegations of a sexual nature had been made against her, and not granting the order would lead to a substantial risk of her right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) being infringed. Moreover, there was a substantial risk that the claimant, Dr Piepenbrock, who had made the allegations against Ms D, would abuse the court system in a manner contrary to the interests of justice, which would have a serious detrimental effect on Ms D.
HHJ Shanks held that these considerations substantially outweighed the principle of open justice, Dr Piepenbrock’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR and his right to freedom of expression under Article 10, as well as other parties’ rights under Article 10, including the press. Granting the order sought would not seriously impact these rights and principles, as it would remain open to anyone to describe the case in all its detail, save for the identity of Ms D. The fact that the central allegation against Ms D was lurid and found to be untrue substantially reduced the weight to be accorded to the Article 10 rights at play.
The EAT granted an indefinite order protecting Ms D’s identity from becoming public and maintaining Ms D’s anonymity in an earlier EAT judgment. The order also limited access to documents lodged with the EAT and prevented Dr Piepenbrock or anyone else from disclosing Ms D’s identity. This case serves to highlight the EAT’s power to act to protect individuals’ rights under the ECHR, even where there is no express rule of procedure in the EAT Rules to that effect.
Fraud: A confiscation order should strip the profit from fraudulently obtained employment
In R v Andrewes  UKSC 24, the appellant obtained a CEO position, falsely claiming he had qualifications and relevant experience. He was appointed in December 2004 and remained in post until March 2015. He would not have been appointed had the true position been known. During his time as CEO, he was regularly appraised as either strong or outstanding.
In January 2017, he pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and two counts of fraud. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and the Crown sought a confiscation order against him. His net earnings during the relevant period were £643,602.91. The available amount was agreed to be £96,737.24, and the judge ordered confiscation of that sum. The Court of Appeal allowed the appellant’s appeal and made no confiscation order, holding that to impose such would be disproportionate. The Crown appealed to the Supreme Court.
Appeal allowed, and confiscation order restored, albeit for different reasons:
- It would be disproportionate to make a confiscation order of the full net earnings as not making any deduction for the value of the services rendered would amount to a further penalty.
- The legal burden of proof in respect of section 6(5) is on the prosecution who must establish that it would not be disproportionate to require the defendant to pay the recoverable amount.
- When considering proportionality, the court should seek to confiscate the difference between the higher earnings obtained through fraud and the lower earnings that would have been obtained if there had been no fraud. This approach takes away the profit made by the fraud.
- The Court held a confiscation order of £244,568 would be proportionate as this represented the 38% difference between his pre-appointment earnings (£54,000 gross) and his post appointment income (£75,000 gross and £643,000 over the course of his fraudulently obtained employment). The recoverable amount was still £96,737.24.
This decision comes across as the kind of compromise more suited to civil litigation than confiscation. The court correctly distinguishes between a job that would have resulted in illegal performance, but acknowledges the appellant stood no chance of getting the job without the falsification of his qualifications. The court was explicit as to its justification for this pragmatic approach, “This is to adopt a principled ‘middle way’ in contrast to either a ‘take all’ approach or a ‘take nothing’ approach“. One wonders if this apparently principled approach will actually lead to fewer appeals on the issue of proportionality in such CV type cases.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com