A summary of October’s employment law cases, which include an interesting look at how not to exclude staff on maternity leave, how to properly handle transgender workers, calculating holiday pay where employees are subject to compulsory overtime and the use of contract clauses to retain employees where discretionary bonus payments are payable which do not amount to restraint of trade.
A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month, and it’s a varied bag. We look at what lead to an interim injunction before a disciplinary hearing, whether it was lawful for the government to revoke legislation without consultation, whether a person can have two employers at the same time for the same work, whether a dismissal meeting is always needed to ensure a fair process and how a lay tribunal member could be considered to have been biased.
- Injunctions: Witnesses and disclosure of documents at disciplinary hearings
- Strikes: Could the government revoke legislation to prevent strikers being replaced by agency staff?
- Worker Status: Can a person have two different employers at the same time for the same work?
- Unfair Dismissal: Lack of dismissal meeting does not render dismissal unfair
- Tribunals: Apparent bias in case of lay member posting on social media
Injunctions: Witnesses and disclosure of documents at disciplinary hearings
In Colbert v Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust  EWHC 1672 (KB), the Claimant, Dr Serryth Colbert, was a consultant in oral and maxillofacial surgery, employed by the Defendant, the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust. The Claimant was the subject of disciplinary proceedings brought by the Defendant following allegations that he intimidated and bullied colleagues and other allegations of misconduct. The Claimant issued proceedings on 30 May 2023 seeking an interim injunction relating to the conduct by the Defendant of the disciplinary process.
This case involved two issues in dispute: 1) whether the Claimant had a right to require the attendance of individuals at a disciplinary hearing, who were interviewed as part of the investigation of allegations against him, but who the Defendant was not proposing to call to give evidence, and 2) whether the Claimant was entitled to disclosure of specific documents as part of the disciplinary process, and in particular to an unredacted report that had been produced into alleged misconduct in his department. The Claimant claimed that the way the Defendant had dealt with those two matters breached express contractual obligations, contained in two documents which he contended formed part of his contract: (1) “Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern NHS” (“MHPS”) published by the Department of Health; and (2) “Managing Conduct Policy” (“MCP”), the Defendant’s policy for dealing with allegations of misconduct.
In December 2020, the Defendant commissioned an external review to examine the department in which the Claimant worked following allegations having been raised of inappropriate workplace behaviour. A report was produced in February 2021 (“the Atkinson Report”) by the external reviewer, and considered the behaviour of a number of individuals, including the Claimant, and made recommendations, one of which was that the Claimant should be investigated for alleged bullying / inappropriate behaviour. The Claimant was excluded from work from 8 March 2021 while an investigation was carried out (conducted pursuant to the MHPS). An external report was commissioned involving the interviewing of 21 witnesses, including the claimant, and a further report submitted in December 2021 (“the Cunningham Report”). The Report made a number of critical findings about the Claimant including that he had displayed intimidating and bullying behaviour towards a number of colleagues.
On 16 December 2021 a letter was sent to the Claimant with the outcome of the investigation, concluding that the Claimant had a case to answer in relation to a series of allegations, and that the matter would proceed to a disciplinary panel, to be held in January 2023, in accordance with the Defendant’s MCP. The letter stated who would be called as witnesses for the Defendant and who else would be giving evidence, and invited the Claimant to identify who he would be calling, and enclosed a number of documents including the Cunningham Report and a redacted copy of the Atkinson Report (the redactions relating to the other individuals identified by the report).
In January the Claimant wrote back to state the Claimant required that 11 named individuals, described as “management witnesses”, should be present so they could be questioned, and that the Claimant intended to call “around 30 additional witnesses subject to their availability”, and asked for the hearing date to be rescheduled. The Defendant responded by acceding to a later hearing date (May) but declined to provide the 11 witnesses, other than Ms Cunningham who had prepared the second report, and said that he had received all the relevant documents, and the redacted parts of the Atkinson report related only to other members of staff and were not relevant to this investigation.
The Claimant sent a letter before claim setting out:
1. Grounds: The alleged Breaches of Contract by the Defendants are the failure to follow its disciplinary procedures, and to hold a disciplinary hearing in accordance with the Claimant’s contractual rights. These rights are confirmed in the doctor’s employment contract, in [the MHPS] and in the [MCP].
2. The failure to require the Defendant’s primary witnesses to attend the disciplinary hearing so that they can be cross examined by the Claimant’s chosen representative.
3. The failure to allow the Claimant to bring his chosen representative to represent him at the hearing in breach of the amended procedure.
4. The failure to disclose documents pertaining to the disciplinary case in line with MHPS.
The Defendant declined to agree and due to the tight schedule that the letters had caused prior to the rescheduled May disciplinary hearing, the Claimant issued an interim injunction for breach of the Claimant’s contract – the order sought to ensure un-redacted disclosure of all documents, to ensure that all the Defendant’s management witnesses attend the disciplinary hearing and the Claimant’s chosen representative was allowed to represent him at the disciplinary hearing and conduct cross-examination.
In the High Court, (King’s Bench Division) the judge held that, on the correct reading of the Defendant employer’s policy for dealing with allegations of misconduct (the MCP), the employee did not have an unqualified right to insist that any ‘management witness’ could be required to attend a disciplinary hearing to be cross-examined. Accordingly, the court dismissed the employee’s application for an interim injunction. The employee had sought the injunction to ensure unredacted disclosure of all documents, and to ensure that all the defendant’s management witnesses attended the disciplinary hearing, so that they could be cross-examined, and he had contended that the employer had breached express contractual obligations.
The court held that there was no serious issue to be tried, because: (i) the claimant had no real prospect of establishing that his interpretation of the relevant paragraph of the MCP (namely that it meant that the employer had to ensure the attendance at any rescheduled disciplinary hearing of all management witnesses, so that they can be subject to cross examination) was correct; and (ii) there was a good argument that the proceedings should run their course before it would be appropriate for the court to intervene, in circumstances where it was settled law that courts should not become involved in the ‘micromanagement’ of disciplinary proceedings. Further, the court held that the employee had no real prospect of establishing that an investigative report that a Trust had commissioned into a department at a hospital constituted ‘correspondence’, as the word was ordinarily understood or as it was intended to be used in the MHPS. Moreover, there was no real prospect of his establishing that ‘relevant’ material had been withheld from the employee and, even if the report amounted to correspondence, he would not have an unqualified right to have the unredacted report disclosed to him.
Strikes: Could the government revoke legislation to prevent strikers being replaced by agency staff?
In R (on the application of ASLEF and others) v Secretary of State for Business and Trade  EWHC 1781 (Admin) the High Court considered whether it was lawful for the government, without consultation, to revoke legislation which prevented workers on strike being replaced by agency workers. From 1976 it was unlawful for an employment business knowingly to introduce or supply workers to an employer to carry out the work of employees who were taking part in official industrial action. Regulations made pursuant to section 5 of the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and most recently regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/3319 – “the 2003 Regulations”), made this a criminal offence.
In 2015, the Government conducted a public consultation on a proposal to revoke regulation 7. The majority of the responses did not favour this change in the law and, in 2016, it was decided not to go ahead. In June 2022, however, the Government decided, in the context of industrial action in the rail sector and other anticipated industrial action, that regulation 7 would be revoked without further public consultation. On 27 June 2022, the draft Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/852 – “the 2022 Regulations”) were therefore laid before Parliament, regulation 2(a) of which implemented this measure. The 2022 Regulations were made by the then Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”), Mr Kwasi Kwarteng, on 20 July 2022 and they came into effect on 21 July 2022.
Thirteen trade unions challenged the then Secretary of State’s decision to make the 2022 Regulations. The challenge is on two grounds:
- that he failed to comply with his statutory duty, under section 12(2) of the 1973 Act, to consult before making the 2022 Regulations (“Ground 1”).
- it is contended that, by making the 2022 Regulations, the Secretary of State breached his duty, under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”), to prevent unlawful interference with the rights of trade unions and their members (“Ground 2”).
The High Court confirmed that the challenge succeeded on the basis of Ground 1 and quashed the Regulations. In particular, it found that the decision to revoke the legislation preventing the use of agency workers in place of striking workers “was not informed by, or tested against, the views of and the evidence of bodies which were representative of the interests concerned”. The Secretary of State could not rely upon consultation which had taken place 7 years earlier on the same point (and was found not to have done so in any event).
The High Court, having upheld Ground 1, decided not to express a view on the more contentious Ground 2.
Worker Status: Can a person have two different employers at the same time for the same work?
In United Taxis Ltd v Comolly  EAT 93, the EAT considered Mr Comolly’s worker status. He is a taxi driver, registered with United Taxis and who then did work driving United Taxis’ passengers, through one of its shareholders, Mr Parkinson, using his taxi. After that relationship came to an end he did work driving United Taxis’ passengers, through another shareholder, Mr Tidman, using his taxi. After that relationship ended he brought various complaints to the employment tribunal asserting that he was either an employee or a worker of United Taxis or Mr Tidman.
The tribunal determined as preliminary issues that Mr Comolly was a worker of United Taxis and an employee of Mr Tidman. On the facts found, the tribunal properly concluded that United Taxis’ passengers’ contracts were, and were solely, with United Taxis. It also properly concluded that, under Mr Comolly’s contract with Mr Tidman, Mr Comolly provided services to him in exchange for payment. United Taxis contracted out the task of conveying its passengers to Mr Tidman, who in turn sub-contracted it to Mr Comolly.
However, the EAT noted that the key cases of Brook Street Bureau v Dacas and Cable & Wireless v Muscat had found the concept of dual employment to be “problematic” and concluded that it could not “see how [the problems] could be overcome”. It therefore found that the tribunal erred in finding that Mr Tidman had a contract with United Taxis under which he also did work for it. There was no necessity to imply such a contract, whether from the fact that he registered with United Taxis, and was required to comply with its rules and byelaws as a condition of being permitted to convey its passengers, or otherwise. The tribunal could also not properly find that he was simultaneously an employee or worker of two employers in respect of the same work.
The tribunal also erred in finding that Mr Comolly’s contract with Mr Tidman was a contract of employment, in particular in its approach to the question of control. In particular, although Mr Tidman controlled when the taxi was available to Mr Comolly, he had no control over what Mr Comolly did during the time that the taxi was available to him. Drawing on its findings of fact, a finding was substituted that Mr Comolly was a worker of Mr Tidman.
Unfair Dismissal: Lack of dismissal meeting does not render dismissal unfair
In Charalambous v National Bank of Greece  EAT 75, the EAT considered the process of dismissal. It found that the lack of a meeting between an employee and the dismissing officer will not in and of itself, in all circumstances, make a dismissal unfair. It found that the decision in Budgen & Co v Thomas  ICR 344 (EAT), was not an authority for the proposition that a dismissing officer must always have direct communication with an employee in order for a misconduct dismissal to be fair. Such a meeting is desirable and good practice but what is essential is that the employee is given the opportunity to ‘say whatever he or she wishes to say’ and there is nothing to say that this communication cannot, in principle, be in writing or by way of a report to the dismissing officer, according to the EAT. In any event, the Employment Tribunal had looked at the procedure adopted by the respondent as a whole: it found that any procedural unfairness in the initial decision to dismiss was sufficiently addressed by the internal appeal, which involved a meeting between the claimant and the decision-maker. The claimant’s appeal against the Employment Tribunal’s finding that her dismissal for misconduct had been fair was therefore dismissed.
Tribunals: Apparent bias in case of lay member posting on social media
In Aspect Windows (Western) Limited V Retter (as representative of the estate of Mrs C McCrorie)  EAT 95 following the publishing of the decision of the employment tribunal arising from a full merits hearing, one of the lay members of the tribunal posted on her LinkedIn page, a link to a report about the decision in the Mail Online. Followers of hers then responded on LinkedIn and she responded to them.
The unsuccessful Respondent in the employment tribunal appealed on the basis that the LinkedIn posts gave rise to apparent bias against it. The EAT held that whilst it is possible that what a tribunal member said about a case after the event could shed light as to their approach to the hearing of it, the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the contents of these posts and applying the guidance in Magill v Porter  UKHL 67 and other pertinent authorities, would not in the circumstances consider the lay member was biased in favour of the Claimant. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
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This month we look at several aspects of the Equality Act through the lens of religious discrimination, race discrimination and harassment. We also take a look at how one should properly calculate holiday pay so as not to fall foul of the Working Time Regulations.
- Religious Discrimination: EAT remits Facebook posts case and sets out principles underpinning proportionality assessment
- Race Discrimination: Judgment against qualifications body held not to be Meek-compliant
- Harassment: Claimant must be aware of the unwanted conduct in order for it to amount to harassment
- Holiday Pay: How to calculate holiday pay on termination of employment
Religious Discrimination: EAT remits Facebook posts case and sets out principles underpinning proportionality assessment
In Higgs v Farmor’s School  EAT 89, the EAT held that in dismissing a direct religion or belief discrimination claim brought by a Christian employee following complaints relating to her social media posts which criticised the nature of sex education in schools (including gender fluidity and same sex marriage) the employment tribunal had erred in that it failed to:
- conclude that there was a close or direct nexus between the employee’s Facebook posts and her protected beliefs
- determine the reason why the employer acted as it had, and
- assess whether the employer’s actions were prescribed by law and necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others
The proportionality assessment, which the tribunal had not carried out, was necessary to determine whether the employer’s actions were because of, or related to, the manifestation of the employee’s protected beliefs, or were in fact due to a justified objection to the manner of that manifestation.
The EAT also set out basic principles that underpin the approach adopted when assessing proportionality of any interference with rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression to assist tribunals and to better inform employers and employees as to where they stand on issues arising from the manifestation of religious or other philosophical beliefs.
Race Discrimination: Judgment against qualifications body held not to be Meek-compliant
The case of General Medical Council v Karim  EAT 87 concerned a claimant doctor who was subject to an investigation by his employer. That led to a referral to the General Medical Council (GMC). The employment side of things was settled when he resigned and a settlement agreement was entered into. However the GMC matter continued. The claimant then made a claim of discrimination by the GMC as a qualifications body, making various complaints in relation to its handling of the matter.
The employment tribunal upheld some (but not all) of the complaints of direct race discrimination on the basis that the burden of proof had passed but not been satisfied.
The GMC appealed to the EAT.
Allowing the GMC’s appeal, the EAT held, in summary, that the tribunal had failed to engage with key aspects of its case, and so produced a decision which was not Meek-compliant; and reached some findings and conclusions at different points that were conflicting or contradictory.
Harassment: Claimant must be aware of the unwanted conduct in order for it to amount to harassment
In Greasley-Adams v Royal Mail Group Ltd  EAT 86 the EAT had to consider (amongst other grounds of appeal) whether an employment tribunal had failed in its analysis of the claimant’s claims of harassment under section 26 of the Equality Act 2020 by not having regard to conduct of which he was not aware.
The EAT, dismissing the appeal, held that only conduct of which the claimant was aware could amount to harassment. This was because:
- the perception of the person claiming harassment was a key and indeed mandatory component in determining whether harassment had occurred
- as confirmed by the relevant authorities, if there was no awareness, there could be no perception.
Holiday Pay: How to calculate holiday pay on termination of employment
In Connor v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  EAT 42 the EAT considered the provisions of a ‘relevant agreement’ reached in relation to holiday pay on termination of employment and how these compared to the calculations provided for by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (‘WTR’) and found it not to be compatible.
In this case the Claimant’s employment contract stated that holiday pay on termination of employment would be calculated based on 1/365th annual salary. This meant, on that upon his termination, he received a lower payment for accrued holiday than that which he would have received using the calculation set-out in the WTR.
The tribunal held that the 1/365th calculation was a valid ‘relevant agreement’ under Regulation 14(3) (which states that the amount of holiday pay due on termination of employment is either that which would be prescribed if the formula set out in the WTR were applied or such other sum which is stated to be payable on termination of employment pursuant to a ‘relevant agreement’) and that therefore there had been no unlawful deduction from the claimant’s wages.
The EAT disagreed. They held that a ‘relevant agreement’ under Regulation 14(3) on the payment of holiday on termination of employment cannot result in a payment which is lower than that which would be calculated using the method set out in the WTR. The Claimant was entitled to the higher amount. . Regulation 14 provides a method of calculation for the purposes of regulations 13 and 13A for an incomplete leave year. The entitlement to annual leave, and payment, are not modified by regulation 14. The regulation provides a formula of calculation which promotes the right to annual leave and the attendant payment for holiday. The phrase “such sum as may be provided for the purposes of this regulation in a relevant agreement” refers to any agreement that provides a formula which is in keeping with the rights provided for in the regulations.
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The devil is in the detail. This month’s case updates include recusing an EAT member for apparent bias to ensure impartiality, upholding a procedural system so that mass litigants could not be removed from an equal pay case, and taking a look at the detail of restrictive covenants, to reduce the effect where it was too fantastical to be valid.
- Tribunals: EAT lay member recused due to appearance of bias
- Equal Pay: 700 Sainsbury’s staff to remain in equal pay claim
- Restrictive Covenants: Is a restrictive covenant still valid if it unintentionally covers “fantastical” areas which were not contemplated, as well as what it set out to do?
Tribunals: EAT lay member recused due to appearance of bias
In Higgs v Farmor’s School and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England  EAT 45, the EAT allowed the appellant’s application for the recusal of a lay member from hearing the instant appeal against the respondent. The appellant had filed for an application for the recusal of the lay member, AM, from the hearing of the appeal based on apparent bias. It was alleged that AM’s former position as Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), when that entity was campaigning on matters of educational policy, had publicly expressed clear views, on the opposite side of a heated debate to the position of the appellant. The respondent did not consent to the application for recusal.
The court held, among other things, that a reasonable and well-informed observer would not see AM as an impartial judge for the appeal. Accordingly, applying the test of the fair-minded and informed observer (Porter v Magill), there was an appearance of bias such that the lay member should be recused from hearing the appeal.
Equal Pay: 700 Sainsbury’s staff to remain in equal pay claim
In Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd v Clark  EWCA Civ 386 the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, dismissed the appeal brought by the appellant, a supermarket company, from a decision which had allowed the respondents’ appeal and reinstated their claims. In 2015 and 2016 a large number of employees working in supermarkets brought equal pay claims against their employers, who included the appellant and other well-known retailers. The case involves two separate but related equal pay claims against Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd and Lloyds. One was brought by women seeking equal pay to male staff and another that would ensure men’s pay does not fall below the women’s if the first claim succeeds.
The claims had generally been brought on a multiple claim form, a type of document expressly permitted by rule 9 of the Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure. The appellant alleged that the judge had erred in law in interpreting rules 10 and 12 of the Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure 2013. It added that the employment tribunal should have rejected large numbers of those claims on the grounds that the claim forms did not contain the reference number of a certificate issued by the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service relating to early conciliation (EC) of their claims.
The court held, among other things, that the judge’s construction of rule 10 was the correct one. A panel of three judges in the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that the attempt by Sainsbury’s to remove the majority of claimants in the 865-person lawsuit because their names were not listed in early-stage paperwork was “highly technical” and lacked “any substantive merit”. While a claim form should contain the name and address of each claimant and each respondent, it was sufficient for it to contain the number of an EC certificate on which the name of one of the prospective claimants appeared. There was no suggestion the 700 workers had failed to follow the correct procedure, Lord Justice Bean held.
“It has been repeatedly stated that employment tribunals should do their best not to place artificial barriers in the way of genuine claim”’, Lord Justice Bean wrote. “The complaint is no more and no less than that the employment tribunal claim form did not give the appropriate certificate number”.
Tribunal rules requiring claimants to provide this information are a “preliminary filter” rather than an opportunity to strike out a claim, he added. “I do not accept…that the existence of the certificate should be checked before proceedings can be issued, still less to lay down that if the certificate number was incorrectly entered or omitted the claim is doomed from the star”’, Lord Justice Bean ruled.
Accordingly, the Court upheld the EAT’s decision in the respondents’ favour for a more fundamental reason relating to the structure and wording of the Rules of Procedure.
Restrictive Covenants: Is a restrictive covenant still valid if it unintentionally covers “fantastical” areas which were not contemplated, as well as what it set out to do?
The Court of Appeal in Boydell v (1) NZP Limited and (2) AI ICE (Luxembourg) Midco S.A.R.L.  EWCA Civ 373, was tasked with considering whether a restrictive covenant that covered what it needed to and what had been contemplated by the parties, but also unintentionally covered other areas (described as “fantastical”) and which had not been contemplated, can it still be valid?
Dr Boydell worked for NZP Ltd, a specialist pharmaceutical business covering a niche area of the pharmaceutical industry described in summary as the development, production and sale of bile acid derivatives for sale to pharmaceutical companies for use by them in their products and is part of the ICE Pharma Group of companies (the second defendant being the ultimate holding company). His contract of employment included a non-competition covenant preventing him from working in any capacity for any competing businesses of either NZP or any of its group companies.
NZP and ICE sought to enforce two sets of restrictive covenants. One set, contained in a variation to the Appellant’s employment contract, ran for one year from the termination of his employment. The other set, contained in a shareholder’s agreement ran for two years. The judge granted an interim injunction enforcing the one year covenants in the employment contract until the trial, with some modifications but refused to enforce the two year restrictions in the shareholder’s agreement (which the companies did not seek to appeal). In doing so, the Judge severed certain parts of the clause, including removing the reference to other group companies. This decision was appealed by NZP who argued that the Judge could not use severance to significantly change the effect of the restraints.
The Court of Appeal disagreed and held that if a clause covers what it needs to and what was contemplated but also unintentionally covers areas which are “fantastical” (Home Counties Dairies Ltd v Skilton) then it may still be valid. If there are two realistic constructions then the court should rely on the one which would result in a valid clause. This meant that, by severing the references to group companies (which were “fantastical”), the Judge had not significantly changed the overall effect of the clause.
Lord Justice Bean (at para.30) said, “The whole burden of the clause is directed to the specialist activities of NZP, which it lists at some length. The judge was entitled, at least at the interim injunction stage, to sever the words from the clause and grant an injunction on a more limited basis. There is a serious question to be tried as to whether other group companies have significant areas of business which are wholly distinct from the activities carried out by NZP. I would, however, refuse Ms Stone’s application for permission to cross-appeal against the judge’s decision to sever the relevant words from clause 3.1.”
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A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month regarding unfair dismissal and determining the date the contract was terminated, considering how an employee’s disabilities may have affected his conduct, respecting privacy through restricted reporting at tribunals and a look at how the ICO and Easylife settled a monetary penalty for unlawful data processing.
- Unfair Dismissal: Determining the effective date of termination of the contract
- Disability Discrimination: Determining whether an employee’s disabilities had had an effect on his conduct
- Restricted Reporting: Anonymity in hearing cases in the tribunals
- Data Protection: ICO and Easylife reach agreement regarding monetary penalty
Unfair Dismissal: Determining the effective date of termination of the contract
In Meaker v Cyxtera Technology UK Ltd  EAT 17 the Employment Appeal Tribunal (the EAT) dismissed the employee’s appeal, concerning the correct approach, in law, to the calculation of the effective date of termination of employment (EDT), pursuant to s.97 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and for the purposes of a complaint of unfair dismissal. The employee appealed after his unfair dismissal claim was struck out as being out of time. The employer argued that the determination of the EDT was not governed by contractual principles and that, where an employee was dismissed in breach of contract, the EDT was the date on which the dismissal was communicated, regardless of whether he accepted it.
The EAT ruled that the employment tribunal (the ET) had not erred in holding that a letter, which the employer had sent to the employee in February 2020, was a termination letter; and that the effective date of termination, for the purposes of the unfair dismissal claim, was the date of receipt of that letter, even if it had been a repudiatory breach that had not been accepted by the claimant at common law. The EAT held that it was not bound to conclude that the meaning of the letter was rendered ambiguous by the fact that the opening paragraph of the relevant settlement agreement had referred to termination being effected by mutual agreement; and that the ET had been entitled to take the view that, even where there had been no mutual agreement, the termination (by the letter) had been clear.
The EAT ruled that there was no sign in the authorities that it was considered that the EDT would only be the date of a repudiatory breach if the contract had, in fact, been brought to an end by the employee accepting that breach. Further, the EAT held that the ET had not erred in holding that the employee had not shown that it had not been reasonably practicable for him to have presented his unfair dismissal complaint in time.
Disability Discrimination: Determining whether an employee’s disabilities had had an effect on his conduct
In McQueen v General Optical Council  EAT 36, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (the EAT) dismissed the employee’s appeal against the employment tribunal’s (the ET’s) decision, dismissing his claim which alleged unfavourable treatment by the respondent employer because of something arising in consequence of a disability, pursuant to s.15 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010). The employee had dyslexia, some symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, neurodiversity and left sided hearing loss, which had caused some difficulties with his interactions in the workplace. The employer, which was the statutory regulator of optometrists and opticians practising in the UK, had employed the employee as a registration officer. The employee had had ‘meltdowns’ at work, which had led to disciplinary proceedings. Subsequently, he had left that employment.
The employee contended that: (i) the ET had misapplied the broad test of causation required where a claim under s.15 was being considered, in that its reasoning had been contrary to the psychiatric and psychological evidence; (ii) the disability did not, necessarily, need to be the sole or even main reason for the ‘something’ that arose in consequence of it; (iii) the employer had, itself, linked the employee’s behaviour to his disabilities; and (iv) in considering whether there had been discrimination of the kind where ‘A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability’ (EqA 2010 s 15(1)(a)), the ET had failed to appreciate that the words ‘in consequence of’ were, at least, as broad as the ‘because of’ test.
The EAT held that, although it had reservations about the structure and quality of the ET’s decision and reasoning, the ET had not erred in law or principle in the application of s.15 to the facts; and that it had not adopted too strict a test of causation when considering the effects of the employee’s disabilities. The correct reading of the decision was that the ET had found that those effects had not played any part in the conduct that had led to the unfavourable treatment complained of. The EAT held that, once the ET had determined that the employee’s disabilities had not had any effect on his conduct on the occasions in question, the further question whether any unfavourable treatment had been ‘because of’ that conduct had not arisen.
Restricted Reporting: Anonymity in hearing cases in the tribunals
In A v Choice Support (Formerly MCCH Ltd)  EAT 18, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (the EAT) ruled on the respondent’s application, pursuant to r.19 of the Employment Appeal Tribunal Rules 1993, SI 1993/2854, to make permanent a temporary restricted reporting order which had been made at the EAT level, pursuant to r.23 of the 1993 Rules, and arising out of s.11 of the Employment Tribunal’s Act 1996 (the Act), and in line with an order made by the employment tribunal (the ET) pursuant to r.50 of the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations, SI 2013/1237 (r.50) and s.11 of the Act. The application arose in circumstances where the respondent provided support to vulnerable adults, and the employee alleged that an individual (EA), with whom she had worked at the same property, had raped her.
The EAT held that: (i) r.50 set out a much broader discretion beyond s.11 of the Act; (ii) the orders should make specific reference to which elements of s.11 and/or r.50 the relevant decision was applying; (iii) the distinction between anonymity orders and restrictions on reporting should clearly be separate parts of any such order, setting out whether they were made pursuant to the section or on broader grounds; (iv) if there was concern about jigsaw identification, any order should be made in terms which clearly prohibited publication of any particular detail of the case facts which it was thought might lead to identification; and (v) a restricted reporting order should only be made (and made permanent) when a less restrictive order would not suffice.
The EAT held that the employee should remain anonymised, that EA’s rights under art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been engaged and that, as ‘a person affected’, he should be anonymised and that, because of the risk of jigsaw identification, EA’s parents should remain anonymised. Further, the EAT ruled that the anonymisation should be made the subject of a permanent order.
Data Protection: ICO and Easylife reach agreement regarding monetary penalty
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reached an agreement with Easylife Ltd (Easylife) to reduce the monetary penalty notice to £250,000 for breaching the UK General Data Protection Regulation, Retained Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (UK GDPR). Easylife has accepted the ICO’s findings as set out in the monetary penalty notice and has agreed to pay the reduced fine. This follows the ICO’s fine to Easylife on 4 October 2022, where an investigation found that Easylife was making assumptions about customers’ medical conditions, based on their purchase history, to sell further health related products. This was deemed to involve processing of a special category data without a lawful basis, where Easylife has since stopped the unlawful processing of special category data.
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