Tag Archive: privacy

  • Employment News – Case Update March 2022

    A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month including how to establish worker status, the use of PILON clauses, privacy regarding email at work and what test to use to determine detriment in victimisation cases.

    • Worker Status: “Irreducible minimum of obligation” is not a prerequisite for establishing worker status
    • Contract: No dismissal where employer invokes contractual PILON after employee’s resignation to bring forward termination date
    • Privacy: Appeal dismissed against judgment that personal emails sent from business account were not private or confidential
    • Victimisation: What test should be applied when determining if a Claimant has suffered a detriment under a victimisation claim?

    Worker Status: “Irreducible minimum of obligation” is not a prerequisite for establishing worker status

    In, Nursing and Midwifery Council v Somerville [2022] EWCA Civ 229, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that an “irreducible minimum of obligation” is not needed to establish worker status under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998). Mr Somerville, a panel member chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Fitness to Practice Committee, worked under an overarching contract. This contract did not oblige the Nursing and Midwifery Council (the Council) to offer hearing dates to him, and he was under no obligation to accept any dates offered to him. Applying Uber BV and others v Aslam and others [2021] UKSC 5, the court found that the fact that the overarching contract did not impose an obligation to work did not preclude a finding that he was a worker when he was actually working.

    In addition, the fact that Mr Somerville could withdraw from an individual agreement to attend a hearing even after he had accepted a particular date did not change the Court of Appeal’s view. He entered into an individual contract for an individual assignment which existed until terminated and had to be read alongside the overarching contract. If an individual contract was not terminated and he chaired a hearing, he would, in the language of section 2(1)(b) of the WTR 1998, have worked under a contract personally to perform services. There is no indication that there must be a distinct, super-added obligation to provide services independent from the provision of the services on a particular occasion. When deciding whether a specific agreement to provide services on a particular occasion amounted to a worker’s contract, the fact that the parties were not obliged to offer, or accept, any future work was irrelevant.

    The Court of Appeal’s decision confirms what was previously understood to be the position, that an “irreducible minimum of obligation” is not an essential requirement for worker status. The analysis of the Uber Supreme Court decision also adds to the often-fraught discussion of what it means to be a worker. That said, the Court of Appeal’s decision is clear: where an individual is, in fact, working or providing services personally under a contract, a finding of worker status can be made even where no overarching contract imposing an obligation to provide and accept work exists.

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    Contract: No dismissal where employer invokes contractual PILON after employee’s resignation to bring forward termination date

    In Fentem v Outform EMEA Ltd [2022] EAT 36, the EAT has held that is bound by the decision in Marshall (Cambridge) v Hamblin [1994] ICR 362. Accordingly, where an employer invokes a clause in an employee’s contract enabling it, following the employee’s resignation, to terminate their employment immediately by making a prescribed payment calculated by reference to the unexpired period of the employee’s notice, there is no dismissal under section 95(1)(a) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

    Despite reaching this conclusion, the EAT expressed misgivings about the decision in Marshall. It was strongly inclined to view Marshall as wrong and could see nothing in the reasoning that supported the conclusion that there was no dismissal in that case.

    However, the EAT could only depart from its own decisions in the narrow circumstances set out in British Gas Trading v Lock [2016] ICR 503. These include where the earlier decision was not merely wrong, but manifestly wrong. It was the outcome or proposition of law for which the decision stood that had to be the focus of consideration. If there is an argument that can reasonably be advanced in defence of the outcome that is itself not manifestly wrong, then the legal outcome could not be said to be manifestly wrong.

    In this case, the employer relied on authorities concerning a scenario in which an employee’s termination date was brought forward with their agreement following their dismissal. The employee argued that these were not relevant because he had not agreed to his termination date being brought forward. The EAT accepted that these authorities may not inform the approach to the issue, but it could not say that they obviously would not. Further, it might be arguable that a contractual provision could have the legal effect that, following a resignation, the employer could cause the employment to end sooner than the date given by the employee, even without the employee’s agreement, by making a contractually-prescribed payment by reference to the unexpired notice period, in a way that only alters how and when the resignation takes effect.

    Since these points could not be said to be obviously unarguable, the decision in Marshall could not be said to be manifestly wrong. Therefore, the EAT could not depart from it.

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    Privacy: Appeal dismissed against judgment that personal emails sent from business account were not private or confidential

    In Brake and another v Guy and others [2022] EWCA Civ 235, the Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal in unsuccessful proceedings for misuse of private information and breach of confidence which arose in relation to a former employee’s personal emails that were sent from a business email account. The email account was used to receive enquiries about the employer’s services.

    Baker LJ’s leading judgment emphasised that the success of privacy and confidentiality claims turned on the specific facts, and considered that it had been open to the judge at first instance, HHJ Paul Matthews, to find as he did. In particular, he said that it was telling that the former employee (who was the claimant in the proceedings) had shared access to the email account with two colleagues, and that her employer had set up personal accounts in the names of each of the employees at the same time as it created the business account. Baker LJ also agreed with the first instance judge that, had there been a reasonable expectation of privacy or circumstances of confidence, disclosure of the emails by the defendants for the purpose of obtaining professional advice would not have breached privacy or confidence and, even if it had, damages would have been limited.

    The only point of disagreement with the earlier judgments related to HHJ Paul Matthews’ decision to split out the issue of the “iniquity defence” (that is, the public interest defence, which the judge had held was available in relation to privacy and breach of confidence claims where the defendant accessed the information unlawfully), leaving it until after his trial of other matters. Baker LJ considered that any fraudulent conduct on the part of the claimant was likely to be relevant to whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy or duty of confidence and, if there was, whether they had been breached. He concluded, however, that this had not been determinative in the present case.

    This judgment provides some guidance on ensuring that an employer will have full access to emails sent via a business account. In particular, it may be advisable to create individual email accounts for each employee who operates from the central business email address and to require them to limit private emails to the account set up in their name.

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    Victimisation: What test should be applied when determining if a Claimant has suffered a detriment under a victimisation claim?

    In Warburton v The Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police [2022] EAT 42, the EAT was had to consider whether the tribunal had asked itself the correct question when deciding whether or not the claimant had suffered a detriment, and if not, which was the correct test to use.

    The claimant had applied to be a police officer with the Northamptonshire Police force. In his application email he referred to what was accepted as being a protected act, namely, proceedings he was bringing in another employment tribunal against another police force (Hertfordshire Constabulary) alleging unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability. He had made an application to join that force, which resulted in an offer which was subsequently withdrawn. The claimant was later told by the respondent that his application form had not been accepted.

    The claimant pursued a claim for victimisation. The respondent’s argument for why the claimant’s application had not been successful was not due to the protected act but owing to the failure of another force (Avon and Somerset Constabulary) to provide information to allow the vetting procedure to proceed. The tribunal found in favour of the respondent and the claimant appealed.

    The appeal was predicated on the basis that the employment tribunal had erred in law by misstating the test for victimisation, and the four other claims flowed from this.

    The EAT held that the tribunal had not asked itself the correct question when deciding that the claimant had suffered no detriment. The key test is from the House of Lords in Shamoon v Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary[2003] ICR 337: “Is the treatment of such a kind that a reasonable worker would or might take the view that in all the circumstances it was to his detriment?”  The EAT concluded that detriment is to be interpreted widely in this context and it is what a reasonable worker might think, not just the view of a tribunal, to satisfy the test. Therefore, it was not particularly difficult to establish a detriment for these purposes and but the EAT also found that the tribunal had also not applied the correct legal test to the causation or “reason why” question. The appeal was allowed and the victimisation claim was remitted for rehearing.

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    Further Information:

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

  • Employment Law Newsletter – July 2019


    • Discrimination: Can a tribunal use stereotypical assumptions on which to base its conclusions, even if the parties never raised them?
    • Contract drafting: Century old authority on restrictive covenants reversed by Supreme Court
    • Harassment: Is posting an offensive image on Facebook carried out ‘in the course of employment’?
    • Disability Discrimination: Employers should make enquiries about an employee’s difficulties to avoid constructive knowledge
    • Agency Workers: Agency workers not entitled to same number of contractual hours as directly-recruited comparators
    • TUPE: Obligation on transferee to keep and produce wage records for transferring employees
    • Right to Privacy: WhatsApp messages used in Police disciplinary proceedings

    Other news:

    • ACAS: 2018-19 Annual Report Published
    • Equality: Gender Equality Roadmap published
    • Health at Work: Joint government consultation to reduce job losses
    • Employment Rights: ‘Good Work’ continues – new consultation on enforcement body for employment rights 
    • ICO: Guidance published on the Use of Cookies and Similar Technologies 


    Discrimination: Can a tribunal use stereotypical assumptions on which to base its conclusions, even if the parties never raised them?

    In Commerzbank AG v Rajput UKEAT/0164/18/RN the Claimant brought claims of direct sex discrimination, harassment (s.26 Equality Act 2010) and maternity leave discrimination. The ET upheld the claims. In its conclusion it held that the decision-makers had acted on the basis of certain stereotypical assumptions about women and about women taking maternity leave. The Respondent appealed against the sex discrimination/harassment decisions because these stereotypical assumptions had not formed part of the Claimant’s case; nor had the tribunal made any suggestion to the Respondent or its witnesses that it had considered such matters when drawing inferences about the reasons for the conduct of which the complaint was made. The reference to stereotypical assumptions had appeared for the first time in the judgment; and accordingly, the Respondent and its witnesses had had no opportunity to challenge the existence of the alleged stereotypical assumptions or their application to the conduct of the decision-makers. This therefore constituted unfairness. 

    The Respondent challenged one of the two findings of maternity leave discrimination on the basis that the tribunal had wrongly substituted a ‘but for’ test of causation for the subjective test required by s.18(4) of the Equality Act. 

    The EAT dismissed the appeal on maternity leave discrimination, holding that on a fair reading of the judgment the tribunal had applied the correct test of causation. However, it upheld the appeal on sex discrimination/harassment. The EAT held that it was unfair of the tribunal to not give the Respondent and its witnesses prior notice and the chance to respond to the suggestion that they had acted on the basis of stereotypical assumptions. The claims were remitted to be heard before a new tribunal. 

    Contract drafting: Century old authority on restrictive covenants reversed by Supreme Court

    In Tillman v Egon Zehnder Limited [2019] UKSC 32 the Supreme Court was asked to consider an interesting contract drafting point. Ms Tillman worked for Egon Zehnder Limited, an executive search firm. When she left them, she sought to get out of her contractual six-month non-compete clause by arguing that the words “directly or indirectly engage or be concerned or interested in” any competing business was unenforceable as a restraint of trade because it had the effect of restraining her from even holding any shareholding in a competitor and was thus far too wide. The Supreme Court agreed with the finding of the Court of Appeal that the words “interested in” were unreasonably wide, but found that it had been wrong to conclude that the offending words could not be severed from the remaining, reasonable parts of the covenant, thus rendering the remainder enforceable. This decision by the Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeal authority (Attwood v Lamont [1920] 3 KB 571) which had been in place for 99 years.The Supreme Court instead preferred the threefold approach laid down by the Court of Appeal in Beckett Investment Management Group Ltd v Hall [2007] EWCA Civ 613:

    1. application of the blue pencil test – there can only be removal of words if upon removal there is no need to add to or to modify the wording that remains in order for it to remain enforceable;
    2. the remaining terms must continue to be supported by adequate consideration (i.e. payment or something of value); and
    3. the removal of the offending provision must not generate any major change in the overall effect of all the post-employment restraints in the contract. 
    Harassment: Is posting an offensive image on Facebook carried out ‘in the course of employment’?

    In Forbes v LHR Airport Limited [2019] UKEAT 0174_18_2802 an employee (DS) posted a picture of a golliwog on her Facebook page with the caption “Let’s see how far we can make him travel before Facebook takes him off”. Her friends list included some of her colleagues, but not the Claimant. One colleague (BW) showed it to the Claimant who found it offensive and raised a grievance at work. DS was disciplined. When the Claimant was rostered to be working with DS he complained to his union representative because his grievance had been upheld, and was moved to another location without explanation.

    The Claimant brought claims against the employer for harassment, victimisation and discrimination on the grounds of race because he felt it was vicariously liable. The tribunal found differently, and dismissed the claims on the basis that DS had not been acting ‘in the course of her employment’. She had not posted the image while at work, had not used work equipment to do it, the image had been shared amongst a private group (of which the Claimant had not been part) and had made no reference to the employer. The Claimant appealed on the grounds that 1) the image had been shared in the workplace, 2) the tribunal had been swayed by DS’s motive and whether she intended to cause offence, rather than the effect of the conduct, and that 3) the Respondent did not take all reasonable steps to prevent the discriminatory act from occurring.

    The EAT found that DS had not acted in the course of her employment and the fact that they acted to discipline her for it, whilst not being an act carried out at work, was entirely appropriate and reasonable for them to do. Since the act was not done ‘in the course of employment’, the Respondent employer could not be held vicariously responsible and it renders the other arguments academic. However, the EAT went on to hold that there was no error by the tribunal as it took into account all the matters it was required to do, and that the Respondent had taken DS’s conduct seriously and given her a final written warning to prevent further discriminatory behaviour. The appeal was dismissed. 

    Disability Discrimination: Employers should make enquiries of an employee’s difficulties to avoid constructive knowledge

    In A Ltd v Z [2019] UKEAT/0273/18/BA the Claimant suffered from mental and psychological problems – stress, depression, low mood and schizophrenia, but she had not disclosed these to her employer as reasons for her absences from work, instead citing other health related reasons. At tribunal it was accepted that the Claimant was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. The employer had dismissed her due to poor attendance and time-keeping, and whilst the tribunal found that the employer had no actual knowledge of her disability, it found that the employer should have made further enquiries into the reasons for her problems at work. The Claimant had not been forthcoming about her real problems and the employer had therefore not known anything more than she was having personal problems, from which she also suffered stress as a result. The Claimant’s s.15 Equality Act claim (i.e. discrimination because she was treated unfavourably due to her disability) succeeded on the basis that the employer had constructive knowledge of her disability.

    The employer appealed. The EAT held that the tribunal had erred in only asking itself what process the employer might have been expected to follow, but then failed to address the critical issue of what the employer ought to have known. It reasoned that if the tribunal found that if the employer had made further enquiries the claimant would probably have continued to hide her real condition and refused a referral to Occupational Health, therefore the EAT held that making further enquiries would not have produced any further information and so the case for constructive knowledge was not made. The EAT upheld this part of the claim.

    Agency Workers: Agency workers not entitled to same number of contractual hours as directly-recruited comparators

    In Kocur v Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd and another [2019] EWCA Civ 1185 the Claimant was an agency worker at Royal Mail’s Leeds Mail Centre where there was a core of permanent staff supplemented by agency staff.  He alleged he did not receive the same rest breaks or hours of work as the permanent employees. The tribunal dismissed these claims but on appeal, the EAT allowed the claim regarding breaks but dismissed the claim regarding equivalent hours. The claimant took the matter to the Court of Appeal.

    In making its decision, the Court of Appeal looked at the statutory language and underlying purpose of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 and the Agency Workers Directive. It found there was nothing in the legislation to suggest that they were meant to regulate the amount of work that employers are to provide to agency workers, specifically drawing attention to regulation 6(1)(b) of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 which includes the duration of working time as a relevant term and condition which it found was intended to refer to terms which set a maximum length for any such periods. Accordingly, the Court held that the legislation entitle agency workers to the same working conditions as directly-recruited comparators, but does not entitle them to the same number of hours.

    TUPE: Obligation on transferee to keep and produce wage records for transferring employees

    S.9 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (NMWA) imposes an obligation on employers to keep pay records, including where an employee’s employment has ceased. In Mears Homecare Limited v Bradburn and others [2019] UKEAT 0170_18_0205 the Claimants served 10 production notices under s.10 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 requesting wage information from the Respondent for the preceding 12 months. Out of that 12 months, 9 were spent with the Respondent as the employer and 3 months where the transferee was the employer because a TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 – “TUPE”) transfer had taken place. The Respondent (the transferor) failed to produce the information within the 14 days required and therefore the Claimants brought their claims before the tribunal, as they were entitled to do so. The tribunal upheld their complaints and awarded them each the sum of £600, payable by the Respondent because where there has been a relevant transfer under TUPE, the duty to maintain wage records stays with the transferor. The Respondent appealed. 

    The EAT overturned the decision. A transferor was not required to maintain such age records and therefore did not need to comply with the s.10 production notices. The EAT held that because under TUPE a person’s employment does not cease for the purposes of the NMWA. Their employment continues with the transferee. The liability transfers as well, therefore it is incumbent upon transferees to insist that, as part of the transfer agreement, pay records are also delivered by the transferor.

    Right to Privacy: WhatsApp messages used in Police disciplinary proceedings

    In BC and others v Chief Constable Police Service of Scotland and others [2019] CSOH 2019, 28 June 2019 the Outer House of the Court of Session (Scotland) considered whether or not WhatsApp messages were capable of being used as evidence in misconduct proceedings. An officer, during a criminal investigation into sexual offences, had his smartphone confiscated and examined. Certain WhatsApp messages were discovered between a group of police officers. The messages were not used in that investigation but were subsequently used by the Police Service of Scotland (i.e. their employer) as a legal basis for bringing separate misconduct proceedings against a group of officers who were members of the chat group. The officers argued that it was a breach of their right to privacy under common law and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to use messages for a purpose collateral to the original investigation. 

    The court held that in normal circumstances there would be an expectation of privacy of individuals for any messages sent via WhatsApp. However, the police are subject to high professional standards which apply both when they are on and off duty. Thus, their expectation of privacy is limited. Failure to meet and comply with those standards would be likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of that officer’s duties or at least give that impression to the public, and this was the case here.

    This is the first time that a Scottish court has expressly declared that there is a common law right to privacy in Scotland (in England the courts recognised and developed the concept of a common law right to privacy – this was most clearly seen in Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] 2 AC 457), though this is a decision of the Outer House and therefore only of persuasive authority in the Court of Session and lower courts.  It does not apply in England but it is useful to see how technology is permeating the law as its influence and reach grows, and this issue may yet be considered before the English courts. 

    Other news:

    ACAS: 2018-19 Annual Report Published

    ACAS has recently published its latest Annual Report and Accounts for 2018-19. It discusses ACAS’s three strategic aims (below), how it has managed these over the last year and its plans to develop them more in the future.

    1. To advise on good practice in everyday working life 
    2. To resolve disputes and manage conflict 
    3. To influence employment policy and debate

    There are also performance indicators showing how they have delivered against target over the last two years. It also includes figures showing where matters have been referred to ACAS for early conciliation from the tribunals, which are increasing year on year.

    Equality: Gender Equality Roadmap published

    On 3 July, Penny Mordaunt (Minister for Women and Equalities) launched the Government Equalities Office’s Roadmap for change: “Gender equality at every stage: a roadmap for change”. The plan is to financially empower women from school to retirement, by including measure such as a review of enforcement of equal pay legislation, and improved information for parents around family friendly entitlements. At the same time, the Women’s Business Council is to be refreshed. There will be a new chair – Fiona Dawson, the Global President of Mars Food, Multi-sales and Global Customers . The aim will be tackling individual sectors to ensure they are closing their gender pay gaps and at the same time that female staff have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

    Some of the proposals of the roadmap include:

    • a consultation on strengthening measures to tackle sexual harassment (including clarifying the rules on third party harassment, exploring whether protections need to be extended to interns and volunteers,and considering whether to extend the three-month time limit for bringing discrimination and harassment claims)
    • consulting on a new right to carers’ leave
    • reviewing the enforcement of equal pay legislation
    • assessing the effectiveness of gender pay gap reporting and consulting on any changes by 2021 
    • completing the government’s evaluation of the shared parental leave and pay scheme by the end of 2019, after which it will consider whether to modernise the existing system. 
    Health at Work: Joint government consultation to reduce job losses

    This month, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care launched a joint consultation: Health is everyone’s business: proposals for reducing ill health-related job loss. It sets out proposals which aim to reduce ill health-related job loss. Whilst the government sees that there is much more employers can do to support employees who are managing health conditions, or who are experiencing a period of sickness absence, it recognises that it can and should provide more help for employers, recognising the differences in employers’ capacity and capability to act.

    Key proposals include: 

    • Improving the information and advice the government provides to employers. 
    • Improving the occupational health market and look at what financial support the government could provide to improve access to occupational health for smaller businesses. 
    • Encouraging early and supportive action by employers for their employees with health conditions.
    • A new right for non-disabled employees to request workplace modifications to assist their return from sick leave, supported by a new Code of Practice and enforceable in the employment tribunal.
    • Reforms to the statutory sick pay system, including pro rata payments for phased return to work after sickness absence, changing eligibility requirements.

    The consultation seeks views on measures to reduce ill health-related job loss with the emphasis on employers taking more responsibility and having more involvement. You can submit your views online, without having to answer all the questions, here: https://getinvolved.dwp.gov.uk/work-and-health/consultation/. The consultation closes on 7 October 2019. 

    Employment Rights: ‘Good Work’ continues – new consultation on enforcement body for employment rights 

    On 16 July 2019, BEIS published a consultation (‘Good Work Plan: establishing a new Single Enforcement Body for employment rights’) on its proposal to change the way employment rights are enforced and therefore protected by creating a single enforcement body. At the moment, the enforcement of employment rights are carried out by the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, HM Revenue and Customs and the Health and Safety Executive. The Director of Labour Market Enforcement oversees the enforcement priorities of the first three, but not the HSE.There are also other areas, such as umbrella companies and holiday pay for vulnerable workers which it would seek to enforce.

    The government recognises that moving to a single body risks losing the benefits of specialisation and expertise built up in existing bodies. There would therefore be a transitional period while the new body becomes fully operational. It also cites the examples of other bodies which have combined to produce more powerful single entities: the National Crime Agency and the Competition and Markets Authority.

    Among other things, the consultation also seeks views on:

    • should the single body have a role in enforcing rights in relation to statutory sick pay, supporting the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a role in enforcing unpaid tribunal awards;
    • extending the civil penalties regime used to enforce payment of the national minimum wage;
    • transparency in supply chains;
    • enforcing joint responsibility for labour market breaches.

    You can respond online or by contacting BEIS. See the link here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/good-work-plan-establishing-a-new-single-enforcement-body-for-employment-rights. The consultation closes on 6 October 2019.

    ICO: Guidance published on the Use of Cookies and Similar Technologies 

    The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) cover the use of cookies and similar technologies for storing information, and accessing information stored, on a user’s equipment such as a computer or mobile device.

    This guidance addresses cookies and similar technologies in detail. Read it if you operate an online service, such as a website or a mobile app, and need a deeper understanding of how PECR applies to your use of cookies.

    Further Information

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

  • Employment Law Newsletter – June 2019


    Other news:


    Disability Discrimination: A perceived risk of future disability is discrimination

    In Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey [2019] EWCA Civ 1061 Lisa Coffey was a police officer in the Wiltshire Constabulary who suffered from a degree of hearing loss which had never caused her any problems in doing her job (‘day to day activities’) and which, everyone agreed, does not constitute a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. In 2013 she applied for a transfer to the Norfolk Constabulary, but it was refused because on a medical test her hearing fell, as the medical adviser put it, “just outside the standards for recruitment strictly speaking”. She brought a claim for disability discrimination against the Chief Constable of the Norfolk Constabulary because of a (perceived) disability. Section 13(1) of the Equality Act states: “A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.” Her claim was upheld by an Employment Tribunal but the Constabulary appealed. The EAT agreed with the tribunal.

    Upholding the decisions of the previous tribunals, the Court of Appeal found  that the Constabulary did unlawfully discriminate against Ms Coffey because of a perception of a risk of future inability to work in a particular role, as she was clearly carrying out her current front-line officer role without hindrance. It was this perception of a risk of future disability that was discriminatory and resulted in the recruiting officer giving her less favourable treatment. The appeal was dismissed.

    Discrimination: Does contributory negligence affect amount of injury to feelings award?

    The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 (‘LRCNA’) basically allows an award for damages to be reduced proportionately where the claimant suffered the damage partly as a result of his/her own actions or those of someone else.It is possible for it to apply to some discrimination claims, but reduction of an award for contributory negligence would rarely, if ever, be justified because of the difficulties in applying the concept of “fault” to the victim of a discrimination claim and the fact that the discriminator may have acted without “fault” in the sense of the 1945 Act. 

    In First Greater Western Limited & Linley v Waiyego UKEAT/0056/18/RN the Claimant succeeded in bringing a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments and a claim for disability discrimination, for which she was awarded £19,800 for injury to feelings in respect of the first claim and £8,800 for injury to feelings arising from the second claim. Both sides appealed. 

    On appeal, the Respondent claimed that the LRCNA could be applied to discrimination claims and that the tribunal failed to make any deduction to reflect the Claimant’s contributory negligence in failing to give the employer details of her previous cognitive behavioural therapist. The EAT held that the obiter dictum relied upon in Way v Crouch [2005] ICR 1362 was in fact too broad and a contributory negligence argument in a discrimination claim may be more appropriately treated as an allegation of failure to mitigate loss. It further held that the tribunal had not erred in its assessment of the quantum of non-financial loss (psychiatric injury and injury to feelings) for disability discrimination. These awards were not flawed by misdirection in relation to causation of loss; nor were they perversely high or flawed by double counting.

    As for the Claimant’s appeal, the EAT held that the tribunal had rightly rejected the Claimant’s invitation to impose a financial penalty on the First Respondent (First Greater Western Limited) under section 12A(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 for deliberate and repeated breaches of employment law. It was held that the tribunal had also rightly rejected the invitation of the Claimant to award aggravated damages. 

    Disability Discrimination: Is reliance on Occupational Health reports sufficient to prevent constructive knowledge of a disability?

    In Kelly v Royal Mail Group Ltd UKEAT/0262/18/RN, Mr Kelly was a postman who had a poor attendance record generally, which had triggered the Royal Mail’s Attendance Policy on several occasions. Following two further periods of absence relating to surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome the policy was triggered again, including the final AR3 stage of the policy, which allowed for a review of the whole of his attendance record. As a result the Royal Mail decided that it had lost confidence in Mr Kelly’s ability to maintain a satisfactory attendance record and accordingly dismissed him. 

    The tribunal held that, whilst dismissal was a harsh response, it was within the band of reasonable responses and therefore the dismissal was fair. It dismissed the allegation that this amounted to disability discrimination on the basis that Royal Mail did not know and could not reasonably be expected to know that Mr Kelly had a disability. Mr Kelly appealed on the grounds that it was perverse to conclude that it was fair to dismiss him for two absences for corrective surgery which he could not help, and for Royal Mail to rely upon earlier absences. Furthermore, it was argued that the tribunal erred in accepting that Royal Mail did not have constructive knowledge of disability because it just “rubber stamped” the Occupational Health report. 

    The EAT dismissed the appeal – the tribunal’s conclusion as to the fairness of the dismissal was not perverse because the policy expressly permitted earlier absences to be taken into account, and accordingly conduct in line with that policy is unlikely to be unfair. The policy applied to all absences, irrespective of fault or blame, and Royal Mail was entitled to look at the overall pattern of absence in determining whether there was a likelihood of satisfactory attendance in the future. As to disability discrimination, the EAT found Royal Mail had not simply rubber stamped the Occupational Health reports, but had actually given independent consideration to the question of disability (and arrived at the decision that carpal tunnel syndrome is not automatically a disability) though the reports themselves contained more than a bare assertion that the Claimant was not disabled. No other evidence had been supplied by Claimant or his representative, and there was nothing to suggest that the employer should seek further clarification as to whether the Claimant was disabled or not. Given all this, there was no error in the tribunal’s conclusion that Royal Mail did not have constructive knowledge of disability.

    Right to Privacy: Employer can rely on material produced under police investigation

    In Garamukanwa v United Kingdom [2019] 6 WLUK 109, Mr Garamukanwa and Ms Maclean worked for the same NHS hospital trust, and had had a relationship that had ended. Mr Garamukanwa had then suspected Ms Maclean had had a relationship with another member of staff, Ms Smith.  According to the evidence, he then started a campaign of harassment against Ms Maclean including stalking her and sending unpleasant emails to her and her colleagues. As a result, she made a formal complaint to the police. The police investigation included them taking copies of incriminating photos he had on his mobile ‘phone. In light of the investigation, the employer decided to suspend him on full pay pending their own investigation. Whilst the police ultimately decided not to prosecute, the employer NHS Trust obtained copies of the photographs seized by the police from his mobile ‘phone. A disciplinary hearing was held and the Claimant, Mr Garamukanwa, was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. He appealed, but the appeal was also dismissed.  

    A tribunal found that the decision to dismiss was within the range of reasonable responses for a reasonable employer and therefore fair. The evidence was found to justify the conclusion that the Claimant was guilty of gross misconduct: a wrongful dismissal claim also failed. In making his claim, the Claimant also raised the issue that his employer had breached his right to privacy (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – ‘ECHR’) by using the emails and other material he sent, together with the photographs from his mobile ‘phone. His contention was that they were entirely private and personal. It was this issue that reached the European Court of Human Rights, which upheld the view of the EAT, which found that the dismissal of an employee by an NHS Trust did not breach the employee’s right to privacy under Article 8 ECHR. The NHS Trust relied upon material that had been collected by, and passed on to them by, the police during their investigation into harassment allegations made against him by a colleague.

     The  European Court of Human Rights found that while business communications are capable of falling within the protection given to “private life” and “correspondence”, the Claimant could not have reasonably expected that any materials or communications linked to the criminal investigation would remain private, and the tribunal was fully entitled to reach this conclusion. Article 8 was therefore not engaged and the appeal dismissed. Leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal also dismissed. 

    Trade Unions: One-off direct offer is not unlawful inducement

    In Kostal UK Ltd v Dunkley & others [2019] EWCA Civ 1009 the company had been negotiating with the employees’ union, UNITE, in respect of certain employment contract terms and conditions through collective bargaining. Section 145B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULR(C)A) prohibits employers from circumventing this collective bargaining route and approaching the employees direct if the result is that such terms will not form part of the collective bargaining (an inducement to a ‘prohibited result’). In this instance, however, the negotiations had stalled and so the employer made two offers on two separate occasions. The offers created the prohibited result which was that the workers’ terms of employment, or any of those terms, “will not (or will no longer) be determined by collective agreement negotiated by or on behalf of the union” – i.e. circumventing the collective bargaining fifty-seven workers took the matter to the tribunal who made awards to each of them. The employer appealed.

    The EAT agreed with the tribunal’s conclusion that the employer had sought to achieve a ‘prohibited result’ and dismissed the appeal. The Court of Appeal, however,  took a different view of what constitutes a prohibited result. It found that a one-off direct offer did not constitute an unlawful inducement because section 145B only prohibits two types of scenarios: 

    1. where an independent trade union is seeking to be recognised and the employer makes an offer whose sole or main purpose is to achieve the result that the workers’ terms of employment will not be determined by a collective agreement; and
    2. where an independent trade union is already recognised, the workers’ terms of employment are determined by collective agreement negotiated by or on behalf of the union, and the employer makes an offer whose sole or main purpose is to achieve the result that the workers’ terms of employment (as a whole), or one or more of those terms, will no longer be determined by collective agreement (i.e. the change takes the term or terms outside the scope of the collective bargaining on a permanent basis).

     It distinguished these offers: where an independent trade union is recognised, the workers’ terms of employment are determined by a collective agreement negotiated by or on behalf of the union, and the employer makes an offer whose sole or main purpose is to achieve the result that one or more of the workers’ terms of employment will not, on this one occasion, be determined by the collective agreement. The appeal was successful and the claims were dismissed. 

    Tribunal proceedings: Extensions of time where belief reasonable

    When bringing an employment tribunal claim, a claimant must complete a form ET1 and start the claim within certain prescribed time limits. In Lowri Beck Services Ltd v Brophy [2019] UKEAT 0277_18_2503, the original Claimant, Mr P Brophy, brought claims of unfair and wrongful dismissal and of disability discrimination against his employer. Mr Brophy suffers with severe dyslexia and had been helped much of his life by his brother, Michael Brophy. Due to his difficulties and the emotional impact of being dismissed for gross misconduct,  the Claimant had asked his brother to help him deal with his claim. It turns out the Claimant had misunderstood the date of his actual dismissal  and this was compounded by the unclear nature of the employer’s letter causing the brother to genuinely get the wrong date of dismissal. This, in turn, meant the claims were brought out of time. The tribunal decided to extend time for these reasons, and that it would be just and equitable to extend time, there being no prejudice to the employer in doing so. The employer appealed against the extension.  

    The EAT held that the tribunal had not erred in its findings. This mistake had been one of fact not law. The issue was whether the brother’s belief was reasonable. The tribunal had found that it was, and was therefore entitled to conclude that it had not been reasonably practicable for the claim to have been presented in time. The extension was upheld and the appeal dismissed. 

    Holiday Pay: Under the Working Time Directive  holiday pay must include regular voluntary overtime

    The decision of the EAT in Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council v Willetts and others (which we previously reported in September 2017) has recently been approved by the Court of Appeal in East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust v Flowers & Others [2019] EWCA Civ 947. A number of ambulance crew worked ‘voluntary’ overtime. It was voluntary – they were under no obligation at all. They made a claim for unlawful deduction from wages to the employment tribunal, arguing that their voluntary overtime was not included with their ‘normal’ remuneration for the purposes of  holiday pay calculation, and therefore they were owed pay. 

    The EAT in Dudley held that holiday pay under the Working Time Directive must include regular voluntary overtime, i.e. elements of pay that are sufficiently regular or recurring to qualify as “normal” must be included. The Court of Appeal expressly approved this decision and said that the patterns of voluntary overtime will be for the tribunals to determine, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether they are sufficiently regular and settled. Additionally, in this case, the Claimants’ contractual terms are to be found in the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook, a collective agreement popularly known as “Agenda for Change”. These required voluntary overtime to be included in the calculation of contractual holiday pay, and as Justice Soole in the EAT broke it down to be a mere question of construction, there being “no good basis to construe clause 13.9 so as to exclude overtime in the calculation of holiday pay”, which the Court of Appeal upheld. 

    Other news:

    Sexual Harassment and Discrimination: WEC publishes report on use of NDAs in discrimination cases

    In November 2018, we reported that The Women and Equalities Committee (WEC)  had launched a new inquiry looking at the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)where any form of harassment or discrimination has been alleged. The committee was seeking written submissions on whether there are certain types of harassment or discrimination for which NDAs are more likely to be used, whether the use of NDAs should be banned or restricted in these cases and what safeguards may be necessary to prevent their unethical use.

    The WEC has now published their report on ‘The use of non-disclosure agreements in discrimination cases’. Its findings show that NDAs are used as a matter of routine to ‘cover up’ unlawful discrimination and harassment and maintain confidentiality of employers in a variety of ways, such as preventing people from making protected disclosures under whistleblowing legislation, or preventing people from explaining to a new employer why their previous job ended, or preventing them from reporting an issue to the police. Settlement agreements will often include non-disparagement provisions. This is happening, the report suggests, because of the “substantial imbalance of power” between employers and employees. Employees are often left feeling that they have little choice but to sign the agreements and agree to their stringent conditions. The report also looked at the effect and practicalities of taking such a matter to an employment tribunal. Furthermore, the report also covers the emotional and psychological damage that can be inflicted upon those feeling forced into entering into NDAs, and how being in such a situation can make moving on and finding a new job more difficult.

    The reports states: 

    This cover-up culture has to be challenged. NDAs should not be used to silence victims of discrimination and harassment. Employers and their legal advisers should not be complicit in using NDAs to cover up allegations of unlawful acts. Discrimination at work is unlawful and employers should not have the option to cover it up through the use of NDAs. They have a duty of care to provide a safe place of work for their employees and that includes protection from unlawful discrimination. Insufficient focus and force from regulators to require employers to do more to protect employees has to change. It is in the public interest that employers tackle discrimination and harassment and that allegations of such behaviour are investigated properly and not covered up by legally sanctioned secrecy. The Government has to reset the parameters within which NDAs can be used and must address the failure of the employment tribunal system to ensure all employees who have experienced discrimination have a meaningful route of legal redress.

    The WEC suggest the Government follow these key recommendations:

    • ensure that NDAs cannot prevent legitimate discussion of allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment, and stop their use to cover up allegations of unlawful discrimination, while still protecting the rights of victims to be able to make the choice to move on with their lives; 
    • require standard, plain English confidentiality, non-derogatory and similar clauses where these are used in settlement agreements, and ensure that such clauses are suitably specific about what information can and cannot be shared and with whom; 
    • strengthen corporate governance requirements to require employers to meet their responsibilities to protect those they employ from discrimination and harassment; and 
    • require named senior managers at board level or similar to oversee anti-discrimination and harassment policies and procedures and the use of NDAs in discrimination and harassment cases. 

    They also renewed their previous calls (which have been rejected) for the Government to: 

    • place a mandatory duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and victimisation in the workplace; and 
    • urgently improve the remedies that can be awarded by employment tribunals as well as the costs regime to reduce disincentives to taking a case forward. Tribunals should be able to award punitive damages, and awards for the non-financial impact of discrimination should be increased significantly.
    Health & Safety: Employers should support victims of domestic abuse

    The figures on domestic abuse are shocking:

    Two women a week are killed by a partner or former partner. One in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, which can range from coercive behaviour to murder. That means we are all likely to know or work with someone suffering from it right now. The damage to people’s mental and physical well being is huge, as is the cost to the economy, calculated by government to be £66 billion a year, writes Iqbal Wahhab OBE in the Independent

    Over 270 companies and public sector businesses have joined the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) (https://eida.org.uk/) to help put a stop to this. The EIDA is a network of employers who have set up this organisation to work collectively to end domestic abuse, and support and protect domestic abuse victims in their workplaces. The EIDA website invites you to join them, there is no fee, and provides an employer’s toolkit, as well as other resources to help employers help their employees in crisis. Among the suggestions are for employers to introduce policies and educate staff to identify, support and signpost victims.

    Health & Safety: IES publishes report regarding support for epileptic workers 

    One in 100 people in the UK suffer with Epilepsy but they are more than twice as likely as non-sufferers to be unemployed. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) was commissioned by Epilepsy Action to conduct research to explore the factors that contribute to people with epilepsy being disadvantaged at work, and to identify what good employment support should look like. The report ‘Employment support for people with epilepsy – Qualitative research to identify what good employment support for people with epilepsy should look like’ has now been published.

    The study revealed both a lack of knowledge on the part of employers about the condition, particularly its fluctuating nature, and the fear held by epilepsy sufferers that they would suffer discrimination in the workplace. IES’s recommendations include a  personalised online toolkit – covering disclosure, health and safety, reasonable adjustments and other common concerns – could guide employers and employees in their conversations. Checklists and ‘job carving’ would help employers to assess employees’ capacity and fit with job tasks, and to make adjustments. These are areas that Epilepsy Action can address.The report also highlights the need for improved access to support services to empower people with epilepsy in their interactions with employers. 

    Data Protection: One year on since implementation of GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018

    Can you believe it’s been a year since we all scrambled to get  our policies, permissions and records straight? It has been a big change to the regulatory landscape and privacy is now arguably much better understood  and appreciated.

    The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denman, explains:

    People have woken up to the new rights the GDPR delivers, with increased protection for the public and additional obligations for organisations. But there is much more still to do to build the public’s trust and confidence. The focus for the second year of the GDPR must be beyond baseline compliance. Instead organisations need to shift their focus to accountability with a real, evidenced understanding of the risks to individuals and how those risks should be mitigated.

    With this in mind, the ICO has published a report detailing their work since 25 May 2018, looking back at what has been learnt over the last year, describes some of the work undertaken by the ICO to deliver the goals set out in its Information Rights Strategic Plan (such as supporting the public and organisations, and using its new enforcement and investigation powers). The report also looks at the ICO’s attempts to stay relevant and foster innovation to be an effective regulator both at home and abroad.

    Parental Leave: UK ranks near bottom for family friendliness

    The BBC recently reported that the UK is one of the worst countries in Europe for paid parental leave, according to UNICEF. Researchers for UNICEF looked 31 European countries and ranked them according to their paid parental leave and affordable childcare to assess how family-friendly they are. The UK came in at a disappointing twenty-eighth, followed only by Cyprus, Greece and Switzerland. Research revealed that UK parents were among the most likely to state that the high cost of childcare was the key factor dissuading them from using it. And yet many nurseries close or have to request top up fees from parents because their running costs are so high (even though childcare is not well paid) and the government’s ‘free childcare’ provision does not meet the actual cost of providing it. 

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sweden and Norway ranked first and second, because they have more progressive paid parental leave policies, with parents being able to split parental leave jointly and family time being much more important socially. These countries offered the equivalent of 35 and 45 weeks of paid leave respectively, while Estonia offers 85 weeks’ paid leave.

    UNICEF says,

    Family-friendly policies strengthen the bond between parents and their children, which is critical for the development of families and socially cohesive societies. UNICEF advocates for at least six months of paid leave for parents, and for universal access to quality, affordable childcare from birth to children’s entry into the first grade of school.

    Further Information

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