Tag Archive: #whistleblowing

  • Employment Law General Update – April 2023

    A lot going on this month. New rates and consultations regarding NLW and NMW, new requirement for immigration scale-up route, an update on the Retained EU Law Bill and discussions over the definition of ‘sex’ under the Equality Act. Meanwhile, there is a review into whistleblowing law, an inquiry into seasonal worker visas, a blog on loneliness in the workplace, and a review relating to the work prospects of autistic people.

    • Staff Pay: Changes to rates of National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage and 2023 consultations
    • Whistleblowing: Government launches whistleblowing law review
    • Immigration: Home Office publishes details of a new endorsement requirement for the Scale-up route
    • Immigration: MAC Chair publishes letter regarding inquiry into Seasonal Worker visa
    • Welfare: Glassdoor reveals survey findings on employee loneliness
    • Disability: DWP publishes new review to increase work prospects of autistic people
    • Disability: Commons briefing highlights lowest rates of employment among disabled people are for those on autism spectrum
    • Brexit: An update on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill
    • Equality Act: EHRC respond to Minister’s request to clarify the definition of ‘sex’

    Staff Pay: Changes to rates of National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage and 2023 consultations

    SI 2023/354: These Regulations are made to amend the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015, SI 2015/621. They come into force on 1 April 2023 and increase:

    • the rate of the national living wage for workers who are aged 23 or over from £9.50 to £10.42 per hour
    • the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are aged 21 or over (but not yet aged 23) from £9.18 to £10.18 per hour
    • the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are aged 18 or over (but not yet aged 21) from £6.83 to £7.49 per hour
    • the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are under the age of 18 from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour
    • the rate for apprentices within SI 2015/621, reg 5(1)(a) and (b) from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour
    • the accommodation offset amount which is applicable where any employer provides a worker with living accommodation from £8.70 to £9.10 for each day that accommodation is provided

    The Low Pay Commission (LPC) has published a consultation seeking views on the impact of National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) increases for 2024. The NLW is expected to rise to between £10.90 and £11.43 in 2024. The information gathered will be used to inform the LPC’s recommendations to the government in the Autumn. The consultation closes on 9 June 2023 at 11:45pm.

    See also our updated Facts and Figures for 2023

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    Whistleblowing: Government launches whistleblowing law review

    On 27 March 2023, the government published a press release confirming that they have launched a review of the whistleblowing framework. The press release states that the review will gather evidence on the effectiveness of the current whistleblowing regime in enabling workers to speak about wrongdoing and protect those who do so. The press release confirms that the evidence gathering stage of the review will end in Autumn 2023. The review will pursue views and evidence from whistleblowers, key charities, employers and regulators.

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    Immigration: Home Office publishes details of a new endorsement requirement for the Scale-up route

    The Home Office has updated its sponsor guidance in relation to the Scale-up route. Notably, it confirms that an ‘endorsing body pathway’ is being launched, on 13 April 2023, for prospective employer applicants who do not meet the sponsor licence eligibility requirements (eg ‘if their HMRC history is not long enough’). As an alternative, prospective sponsors will be able to obtain an endorsement from a Home Office-approved endorsing body and submit this with the licence application (which must be made no more than three months from the date of endorsement). The guidance confirms that the endorsement process will attract a fee, and further details will be published in due course. Other changes include a new Annex SC2, setting out the changes to the route from 12 April 2023, in line with the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 1160.

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    Immigration: MAC Chair publishes letter regarding inquiry into Seasonal Worker visa

    The Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), Professor Brian Bell, has published a letter written to the Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, regarding an inquiry into the Seasonal Worker visa. The inquiry will consider the rules under which the scheme operates, the size and costs of the scheme, the potential for exploitation and poor labour market practice, evidence from international comparisons and the long-run need for such a scheme. Bell has also confirmed that MAC will be working with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) during the inquiry.

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    Welfare: Glassdoor reveals survey findings on employee loneliness

    Glassdoor has published a blog with insights from its new study which surveyed 2,000 employees to understand the levels of employee loneliness in the UK. The blog reveals the impact of poor workplace social life and the importance of workplace friendships to retaining staff.

    Key findings include:

    • six in ten people with less than five years of work experience are lonely all or most of the time
    • only 51% of employees connect socially with colleagues at least once a month
    • 28% of workers under 35 would stay in a job they did not like if the workplace social life was good
    • 89% of workers believe feeling a sense of belonging with their company is vital to their overall workplace happiness
    • nearly 49% of workers say a good social life has a significant impact on their overall job satisfaction and mental health

    Common reasons for workplace loneliness include less in-person interaction with co-workers, inflexibility in the workplace, and a lack of focus on creating a sense of belonging or community by an employer.

    Glassdoor reveals that without a good workplace social life, workers are more likely to be less productive and engaged. They are also more likely to experience stress, anxiety and eventually burnout.


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    Disability: DWP publishes new review to increase work prospects of autistic people

    The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), supported by the autism charity Autistica, has launched a review, the Buckland Review of Autism Employment, to increase the employment prospects of autistic people. The review, which will be led by Sir Robert Buckland KC MP and start in May 2023, will consider how the government can support employers to recruit and retain autistic people and enjoy the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce. Recommendations for change will be made to the Secretary of State in September 2023.

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    Disability: Commons briefing highlights lowest rates of employment among disabled people are for those on autism spectrum

    The House of Commons has released a research briefing on autism, policy and services. The briefing sets out the Department for Work and Pensions’ annual set of statistics on the employment of disabled people, which reports that the lowest rates of employment among disabled people are those on the autism spectrum.

    In the 2020–21 financial year, 26.5% of disabled people on the autism spectrum were in employment, compared to 52.5% of all disabled people and 80.4% of non-disabled people in the same period. In 2016, the National Autistic Society reported that 77% of unemployed people with autism wanted to work.

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    Brexit: An update on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

    Retained EU law is a concept created by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. This Act took a ‘snapshot’ of EU law as it applied to the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 and provided for it to continue to apply in domestic law. The Bill would automatically revoke, or ‘sunset’, most retained EU law at the end of 2023. This would not apply to retained EU law that is domestic primary legislation.

    Ministers and devolved authorities could exempt most (but not all) retained EU law from the sunset, and UK ministers (but not devolved authorities) could delay the sunset until 23 June 2026 at the latest for specific descriptions of retained EU law. Any retained EU law that still applied after the end of 2023 would be renamed as assimilated law. The Bill would give ministers and devolved authorities powers to restate, reproduce, revoke, replace or update retained EU law and assimilated law by statutory instrument.

    The Bill would also repeal the principle of supremacy of retained EU law from UK law at the end of 2023, although its effects could be reproduced by statutory instrument in relation to specific pieces of retained EU law. The Bill would also make changes to the way that courts could depart from retained EU case law.

    The Bill would change the way that some types of retained EU law can be modified. It would ‘downgrade’ retained direct EU legislation so that this could be amended by secondary legislation. It would also remove additional parliamentary scrutiny requirements that currently apply when modifying some types of EU-derived domestic secondary legislation.

    The government has published a ‘dashboard’ of retained EU law, although it acknowledges this is not a comprehensive catalogue of all retained EU law that may be in scope of the Bill. The dashboard is due to be updated regularly.

    Concerns have been raised throughout the Bill’s progress about the amount of retained EU law to be reviewed before the sunset deadline and whether some may end up being revoked inadvertently. In the Commons, MPs expressed concerns about the impact of large-scale and rapid changes to the statute book as a consequence of the Bill and have highlighted a lack of clarity about what retained EU law the government intends to keep, particularly in the areas of employment, environmental and consumer protections. They were also critical of a lack of parliamentary scrutiny of and input into the process of reforming retained EU law. However, the only amendments made to the Bill in the House of Commons were government amendments to clarify the Bill’s drafting.

    The Bill is now with the House of Lords. Five days of Committee proceedings—when a Bill is examined in detail—concluded on 8 March 2023.

    Over the five days, Peers put forward many amendments to the Bill on a range of subjects. Opposition peers were scathing in their comments on the Bill. For example, Baroness Ludford (LD), said the Bill was ‘pretty hopeless’ and accused the government of adopting a ‘slash and burn’ approach to legislative reform, with opposition amendments seeking to bring to it ‘some rationalisation and order’. For the government, Lord Callanan, said, on the contrary, a ‘significant minority’ of retained EU law was ‘legally inoperable’ and that it was ‘not good governance’ to subject it to ‘complex and unnecessary parliamentary processes’ before being able to remove it from the statute book. He added that the amendments, including those seeking to delay the sunset, would ‘hamper efforts to realise the opportunities the Bill presents’.

    The Bill has come out of Committee stage in the Lords with amendments, including the insertion of a new clause setting out exceptions to the sunset of REUL, and it seems likely that further amendments will be made at Report stage. It is noteworthy that at Second Reading in the Lords a significant number of Conservative peers spoke against the Bill. The level of opposition expressed by peers from all parties indicates that it may not be straightforward for the government to get the Bill into law. It seems likely that the government will need to accept at least some of the Lords’ amendments if it wishes to avoid a lengthy period of ‘ping pong’ between the Lords and the Commons.

    In contrast to the approach being taken in respect of much retained EU law, the House of Lords is, in parallel, scrutinising the Financial Services and Markets Bill, which would similarly revoke retained EU law relating to financial services, but contains developed provisions which enable the Treasury and financial services regulators to replace that EU Law with legislation designed specifically for UK markets.

    Report stage on the Bill—a further chance for the House of Lords to closely scrutinise elements of the Bill and make changes—began on 19 April 2023.

    Authors: David Mundy, Aaron Nelson, and Joanna Purkis at BDB Pitmans, for LexisNexis. 

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    Equality Act: EHRC respond to Minister’s request to clarify the definition of ‘sex’

    On 21 February 2023, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, requested advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) regarding the definition of the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ in the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010). EHRC have provided an initial response to the Minister’s request namely suggesting that the UK government carefully consider implications any change to the legislation could have.

    Further Information:

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

  • Employment Law General Update – February 2023

    We bring you a month of reports and inquiries. Two reports from a think tank and the IES into how women’s finances are affected by their working life and what impact this can have on the gender pension gap. A new Bill has been given government backing to give zero hours workers more certainty by requesting a more predictable work pattern. A troubling and impactful inquiry has been published into the TSSA, with stark consequences, and a study finds that despite having whistleblowing policies in place, many require better implementation and training.

    • Pensions: Think tank publishes two reports on the gender pension gap with recommendations
    • Zero Hours Contracts: Government backs law to give workers right to request more predictable work pattern
    • Trade Unions: Inquiry finds Sexual harassment rife at TSSA
    • Whistleblowing: Majority of firms have whistleblowing policies, but lack formal training for those handling concerns, study finds

    Pensions: Think tank publishes two reports on the gender pension gap with recommendations

    Two reports from think tank Phoenix Insights and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) exploring women’s finances through the lens of the workplace, set out a number of recommendations to assist women’s ability to save thereby closing the gender pension gap. The gender pay gap already disadvantages women’s future finances because it means they are more likely to contribute less to their retirement savings than their male peers. The research found that this disparity is made worse by life events, including motherhood, menopause, divorce, childcare, menstruation and caring responsibilities which can all disproportionately affect a woman’s earnings, and therefore pension contributions.

    Some of the key findings in the reports include that the gender pay gap is a significant contributor to the gender pension gap, yet women on average contribute a larger proportion of their salary to their pension. On average, women are contributing a higher percentage of their monthly income into their pension than men up until middle age – 6.1% compared to 5.8% aged 35-44 by middle age – where care responsibilities fall to one in four women in the UK – men are paying almost £80 more per month into their pension than women. Women are more likely than men to fall under the auto-enrolment threshold (women 35% : men 11%). Automatic enrolment closed the contribution gap in participation but increased the gap in terms of contribution. Women are more likely to be economically inactive due to long-term health conditions than men. There is limited awareness among employers of the causes and consequences of the gender pension gap, resulting in a lack of action over and above the statutory minimum allowances that seek to improve the savings capacity of women across the different life stages.

    The think tank report recommends employers should be required to inform employees about the pensions impact that changes to their working hours and earnings may have, to help close the gender pension gap.

    The opportunity for employers – five key recommendations:

    • re-enrol workers into pension schemes annually, rather than the statutory three years, to give workers the opportunity to re-engage if they have taken career breaks or have opted out because of a lack of affordability
    • ensure employer pension contributions continue during periods of parental leave
    • adopt a minimum of five days unpaid leave per year for those with childcare responsibilities, and where possible, five days paid carer’s leave
    • make flexible working the norm from day one and highlight this across all job roles
    • ensure workplace health policies offer explicit and visible support for reproductive conditions such as miscarriage, fertility treatment, for those diagnosed with endometriosis and managing menopause symptoms

    The role of government – five key recommendations:

    • legally require employers to provide information on how contractual changes impact pension contributions
    • revisit the Carer’s Leave Bill to ensure that unpaid careers can access up to ten days statutory paid leave
    • the legal right to flexible working should be available from the first day of employment, and the number of reasons to reject flexibility should reduce from eight to two
    • widen the coverage of auto-enrolment by lowering age and earnings eligibility threshold to 18 years and £0, respectively
    • review the advice and guidance boundary so that a larger population can access tailored and reliable financial support

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    Zero Hours Contracts: Government backs law to give workers right to request more predictable work pattern

    The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced that the government is backing Blackpool South MP Scott Benton’s Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill. The Bill seeks to ensure that all employees, even agency workers, receive more predictable working patterns.

    ‘Hard working staff on zero hours contracts across the country put their lives on hold to make themselves readily available for shifts that may never actually come’ said Labour Markets Minister, Kevin Hollinrake. ‘Employers having one-sided flexibility over their staff is unfair and unreasonable. This Bill will ensure workers can request more predictable working patterns where they want them, so they can get on with their daily lives.’ The Bill provides that if an employee’s existing working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours they work, the times they work, or if it is a fixed term contract for less than 12 months, they may make a formal application to change their working pattern to make it more predictable. The move comes as part of a package of policies designed to further workers’ rights, such as:

    • paid neonatal care leave
    • requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities, and service charges are paid to workers in full
    • entitling unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave
    • providing employees with a day one right to request flexible working, and a greater say over when, where, and how they work

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    Trade Unions: Inquiry finds sexual harassment rife at TSSA

    A misogynistic, ‘mafia-like’ culture of sexual harassment, bullying and violent language has permeated one of Britain’s transport unions, a new independent inquiry has revealed. An investigation by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC into the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) concluded on 8 February 2023 that ‘there has been sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within the TSSA and that the leadership and culture has enabled these behaviours through wilful blindness, power hoarding and poor practices’.

    Kennedy’s report called for sweeping changes in an organisation where absolute power was concentrated in ‘a very small number of hands’, and called for new leadership at the TSSA. The TSSA opened the investigation in September 2022 after its General Secretary at the time, Manuel Cortes, was accused of sexual harassment by several women. Cortes, who has since retired with an undisclosed payout, denies the allegations. Kennedy pointed out in her report that neither the internal leadership of the TSSA nor the executive committee understood that to say they had not witnessed inappropriate behaviour is not an acceptable response to an ‘atmosphere of fear’ and an environment of ‘open secrets’.

    Only two of the 50 people who volunteered to speak to Kennedy as she carried out her inquiry had any positive words to say about the TSSA’s culture, according to her report. The rest described a ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘mafia-like’ culture across the TSSA. The organisation was sexist, racist and homophobic, they said.

    Kennedy said that a ‘distressing element’ of her inquiry was realising how little senior leaders at the TSSA seemed to have ‘moved with the times’. Their approach to management was ‘controlling’ and described by many staff members as bullying. The barrister said that, combined with governance failings, meant the ‘outdated attitudes of scepticism and disbelief of women’ formed a ‘dangerous mixture’.

    Kennedy noted that the recent history of ‘wage suppression’, particularly in the public sector, and the ‘casual erosion of employment rights’ through precarious work points to an urgent need for healthy trade unions. She recommended a sweeping change of leadership, a realistic time-frame for reform and ‘serious investment of time in culture change’ to make a success of the TSSA.

    TSSA said in response that the report made ‘difficult reading’ and highlighted serious problems that the union had to tackle. A spokesperson said the TSSA recognised the need for sweeping reform and stated its commitment to tackle institutional issues and drive through a culture change. ‘As a union, TSSA fights for equality, fairness and social justice for all, regularly winning on equality issues for our members’, the spokesperson said. ‘But it is clear from this report that our union has not followed the values we aspire to for our members.’

    The President and Treasurer of the TSSA have stood down with immediate effect and interim replacements had been appointed, the spokesperson added. The TSSA has confirmed it is committed to take comprehensive, considered and meaningful action to address [the report’s] findings, and to enable the necessary further investigation and decisions to be made, the TSSA has suspended all five senior members of staff named in the report, including former General Secretary, Manuel Cortes.

    Responding to the report, the TUC stated that ‘sexual harassment and bullying have no place in the trade union movement or any workplace. The TUC believes the women who came forward to share their experiences’. The TSSA have been asked to meet with the TUC General Secretary and the TUC President to discuss next steps.

    The Kennedy report comes after a similar 2020 investigation into the GMB, conducted by Karon Monaghan KC, concluded that the GMB is institutionally sexist, and bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic within the GMB.

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    Whistleblowing: Majority of firms have whistleblowing policies, but lack formal training for those handling concerns, study finds

    On 16 February 2023, an article by People Management reported that a study by whistleblowing and compliance services provider Safecall, which surveyed HR managers and directors from 222 organisations, found that that while 17 per cent of respondent organisations lacked a whistleblowing policy, the majority (83 per cent) did have one in place, and for those companies that provide internal whistleblowing services, only 58 per cent of their investigators had been formally trained.

    The report also discovered:

    • more than two fifths (42 per cent) of employees responsible for managing whistleblowing complaints have either self-taught, learned their skills through experience, or have no experience at all
    • more than half (57 per cent) of HR professionals surveyed believed that their employees were actively encouraged to report wrongdoing.
    • however, just 42.6 per cent said employees “generally feel safe” to do so, 
    • the majority (74 per cent) of HR professionals could not be certain that whistleblowers were confident in raising concerns, and
    • one in five (20 per cent) organisations have whistleblowing processes that their employees would find to be “highly untrustworthy”.

    The article goes on to discuss various aspects of having whistleblowing policies. A policy that emphasises how employees can bring matters to their employer’s attention, which may help employers avoid or at least reduce the risk of employment claims by increasing the likelihood that disclosures will be readily identified as qualifying as a protected disclosures.

    However, problems arise where there is a fundamental lack of trust between an organisation and its workforce. Having a whistleblowing policy that ensures there is a clear procedure that must be followed by all staff when a complaint is made can support businesses in fostering a transparent and open company culture. The policy should also demonstrate that staff should not be victimised or subjected to any detrimental treatment as a result of bringing a complaint.

    Last year, legal experts warned HR professionals of the consequences of workers whistleblowing on their former and current employers for coronavirus job retention schemes, with law firm Pinsent Masons reporting that 13,775 furlough fraud whistleblowing reports were made to HMRC.

    Meanwhile, a previous People Management report found that one in five (20 per cent) employees who had gone to their bosses with concerns over furlough fraud and breaches of Covid-19 safety rules were sacked as result. 

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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 Case Update – February 2023

    This month’s review covers a range of issues. We look at sex discrimination involving a lack of a private toilet for a female employee, how an employee who worked term time should have had her holiday pay calculated to take account of the national minimum wage, a potential revision of couriers’ holiday pay following the Pimlico Plumbers case, how not to deal with a flexible working request, and an appeal to reconsider a dismissal related to the pandemic.

    • Sex Discrimination: Risk of seeing man at urinal was direct sex discrimination
    • Pay: Contractual terms of salaried term-time worker entitled her to NMW for 52 weeks of the year
    • Holiday Pay Claims: Tribunal decision remitted following Court of Appeal decision in Pimlico Plumbers
    • Indirect Discrimination: Rejection of flexible working request is application of PCP
    • COVID-19: Sales rep wins bid to dispute firing over COVID-19 home working

    Sex Discrimination: Risk of seeing man at urinal was direct sex discrimination

    In Earl Shilton Town Council v Miller [2023] EAT 5, the EAT has rejected Earl Shilton Town Council’s case that it did not treat ex-clerk Karen Miller worse than men in its shared toilet arrangement. The council launched its appeal after the employment tribunal ruled in 2020 it failed to provide appropriate toilet facilities to ex-clerk Karen Miller for almost two years between 2016 and 2018. The tribunal concluded that Ms Miller had been treated less favourably because she ran the risk of seeing men using the urinal. The council argued in its appeal that Ms Miller was not treated less favourably than men because they were just as much at risk of being seen at the urinal as she was of seeing them. The Judge Tayler rejected its case, concluding that Ms Miller’s sex discrimination claim did not fall apart just because a man could also make a similar complaint. It was enough to establish that Ms Miller had a worse experience than a man would seeing another man at the urinal, he said.

    ‘Taken from her perspective the claimant was treated less favourably than men in that she, a woman, was at risk of seeing a man using the urinals’, Judge Tayler said. ‘While a man might see another man use the urinals, the treatment of the claimant, as a woman, was less favourably.’

    The judgment details how the council, which was based in a Methodist Church that it shared with a playschool, only had access to a female toilet that was in the school’s half of the building. Female staff would have to check with playschool workers that no children were using the toilet first because of child safety concerns, according to the judgment. The toilets were not always immediately accessible as a result. The council offered her the use of the men’s toilet, which has a single cubicle and a multi-person urinal. But there was no lock on the external door, creating the risk that a woman might walk in on a man using the urinal or leave the cubicle to find a man using it. The council also contended in its appeal that the sharing arrangements could not be discriminatory because they were caused by child safety concerns.

    Judge Taylor ruled that the arrangements were not good enough, citing the lack of a sanitary bin and suggesting that installing a lock on the toilet door may have made it compliant.

    ‘The facilities were inadequate for the claimant because she is a woman’, he said. ‘Accordingly, the safeguarding issue could only go to motive and could not prevent direct discrimination being established.’

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    Pay: Contractual terms of salaried term-time worker entitled her to NMW for 52 weeks of the year

    In Lloyd v Elmhurst School Limited [2002] EAT 169, the claimant was employed by the respondent, a private school, as a teaching assistant. She initially worked two days a week and then this was increased to three days a week (21 hours per week). She was paid monthly in equal instalments. The claimant’s contract did not set out hours of work. However, it stated that during term time she would work as directed by the Head Teacher and be entitled to the usual school holidays as holidays with pay. The respondent calculated the claimant’s salary based on 40 weeks of the year. The claimant brought a claim in the employment tribunal for unlawful deduction from wages based on an underpayment of the National Minimum Wage (NMW). She argued that her hours over the year should be calculated as 52 weeks x 21 hours, and not 40 weeks x 21 hours. If her method of calculation was accepted as correct there was an underpayment of the NMW.

    A salaried worker is entitled to receive the NMW for their ‘basic hours’ which, by virtue of regulations 3, 21(3), 22(5) of the NMW Regulations 2015 (NMWR 2015), are determined by the terms of their contract of employment, even if those basic hours are greater than the hours actually worked. On the facts of this case, even though the claimant only worked term-time as a teaching assistant, she was entitled to the NMW for 52 weeks of the year rather than just her working weeks plus statutory holiday, because her contract provided that ‘… she was entitled to the usual school holidays as holiday with pay’, according to the EAT.

    The employment tribunal dismissed the claimant’s claim. It found that the claimant worked term-time only; when the claimant accepted her job it was on her and the school’s understanding that she would work term time only; the contract did not explicitly set this out but this was consistent with clause 3(b) of the contract; the wording of clause 4 of the contract did not mean that these hours were deemed to be working hours for the purposes of the NMW legislation; the wording ‘the usual school holidays as holidays with pay’ did not mean that the 12 weeks of school holiday should be paid at the same rate as when the claimant was working/on statutory leave and included in her basic hours worked calculation for NMW purposes.

    The claimant appealed to the EAT. In relation to the construction of ‘basic hours’ in NMWR 2015, it was not in dispute that the claimant was a permanent employee, who was employed throughout the school year and who was engaged in ‘salaried hours work’ for the purpose of NMWR 2015, nor that the claimant met the four conditions in regulation 21, including the second condition in regulation 21(3) that she was entitled to be paid in respect of a number of hours in a year and that those hours necessarily could be ascertained from her contract.

    The principal point of dispute on statutory interpretation was which non-working hours of absence or holiday count towards basic hours. The claimant argued that, while it depends on the individual contract, basic hours include all the hours which are paid as contractual holiday. While the respondent argued that the only periods of absence which count towards basic hours are those which are absences from days when the worker would otherwise be working.

    The EAT allowed the appeal. It agreed with the claimant on the issue of statutory interpretation and held that the code, Act and regulations were a poor guide to what hours are to be treated as basic hours, and the ascertainment of the claimant’s ‘basic hours’ depended on the meaning of her contract: the statutory question was not answered by looking at the hours which she in fact worked. Her annual basic hours, as ascertained from her contract, would then fall to be divided by 12 to give the hours of salaried work for each one-month pay reference period. It held that as a matter of general principle, some periods of fully paid absence count towards the ‘basic hours’ of salaried hours work, e.g. if the worker’s contract said they were entitled to a salary of £400 a week for a 40-hour week and to seven weeks’ holiday at full pay their annual basic hours would be based on a multiplier of 52 weeks.

    In relation to the individual grounds of appeal, the EAT held that the tribunal erred in examining the hours the claimant in fact worked, to which it added her statutory entitlement to paid annual leave; failing to ascertain the number of hours in the year for which the claimant was entitled to salary in accordance with her contract, as to which the meaning of clause 4 of her contract was of central importance; examining whether the claimant was engaged in ‘working activity’ outside term-time, rather than asking whether those periods of contractual holiday could form part of her basic hours; inconsistently including statutory leave but excluding contractual leave; and relying regulation 27 (whether a worker is ‘available at or near a place of work’ for the purpose of doing work) and not to regulation 21(3), and, in doing, so wrongly focused on when the claimant was in fact engaged in working or working activity.

    The EAT remitted the matter to a freshly constituted employment tribunal for the determination, in light of its judgment, of all the issues relevant to the claimant’s claim of unlawful deduction from wages.

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    Holiday Pay Claims: Tribunal decision remitted following Court of Appeal decision in Pimlico Plumbers

    In Alston and 44 Ors v The Doctors Laboratory Ltd and Ors [2023] EAT 13 a group of couriers have successfully applied to the EAT to set aside by consent an employment tribunal decision on an application of time limits in holiday pay claims under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998) which had ruled that they could carry over paid holidays between years only if they had not already taken unpaid leave, after arguing that a Court of Appeal decision voided the employment tribunal judgment on this point.

    Forty-five claimants, 38 of them represented by trade union Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), argued before the EAT that the Court of Appeal’s decision in Smith v Pimlico Plumbers Ltd in February 2022 removed restrictions on how much paid leave they are due. The Honourable Mrs Justice Eady, current President of the EAT, agreed, saying that an employment tribunal’s 2020 decision in the couriers’ case ‘cannot stand and must be set aside’. The couriers ‘were and remain entitled to carry over any untaken paid annual leave’ until their contracts end or the employer, The Doctors Laboratory Ltd, allows them to take the paid holidays they have accrued, Mrs Justice Eady ruled.

    It is one of the first cases to rely on the Pimlico Plumbers precedent, which allows people who were wrongly denied paid holiday to claim up to 5.6 weeks’ worth of pay—the equivalent of statutory annual leave—for each year of their employment. For people who have been misclassified as self-employed rather than workers, the precedent removed a previous two-year limit to compensation claims—now, they can stretch back as far as 1996.

    The Doctors Laboratory, the UK’s largest independent clinical lab, did not give its couriers paid holiday until 2018, when it conceded they were entitled to up to four weeks a year as ‘limb (b) workers’, a legal category of worker under section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

    The company argued before the employment tribunal in 2020 that unpaid leave the couriers had taken before 2018 should be subtracted from their holiday entitlement going forward.

    The tribunal agreed the couriers’ right to carry over leave year-on-year ‘exists subject to qualification’.

    Employment Judge Elliott ruled that unpaid leave was ‘capable of amounting to annual leave’ because it fulfils the health and safety objective of the European Working Time Directive, which is the root of UK working time law. But the couriers’ counsel argued before the EAT that Pimlico Plumbers allows workers to accumulate paid holiday if they have taken unpaid leave for reasons beyond their control.

    The couriers and The Doctors Laboratory remain at odds over whether the couriers count as workers. If so, they could be entitled to the full 5.6 weeks’ statutory annual leave. Judge Eady remitted the matter to the employment tribunal for further directions.

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    Indirect Discrimination: Rejection of flexible working request is application of PCP

    In Glover v (1) Lacoste UK Ltd (2) Harmon [2023] EAT 4 the EAT dealt with the question of when a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) can be said to have been ‘applied’ to an employee, for the purposes of a claim of indirect discrimination under section 19 of Equality Act 2010. The EAT held that once an application for flexible working (eg to work on a limited number of days only each week) is determined, following an appeal process, the PCP (eg to be fully flexible as to working days) has been applied, and may therefore have put the applicant at a disadvantage, for the purposes of an indirect discrimination claim. That is the case even if the applicant is away from work when the request is made and never returns to work. It remains the case even if the employer subsequently agrees to the terms of the original application.

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    COVID-19: Sales rep wins bid to dispute firing over COVID-19 home working

    The EAT has agreed to hear arguments from a salesman fired after asking to work from home or be granted a leave of absence during the COVID-19 lockdown, that the employment tribunal failed to consider his belief that these were reasonable steps to avoid infection. The EAT granted Francesco Accattatis permission to challenge a decision in favour of his former employer Fortuna Group, which sells protective medical equipment like face masks and gloves. The company said Accattatis had failed to ‘support and fully comply with company policies’, which included working from its office in Enfield, North London, when it fired him in April 2020, approximately a month into the first national coronavirus lockdown. But Accattatis argued a 2021 employment tribunal ruling only considered the company’s belief that it was not possible for him to work from home or be placed on furlough. ‘To focus exclusively on the respondent’s view of the situation was an error’, his counsel, told the EAT. ‘I don’t see that the respondent’s view of whether something is feasible, or whether it was feasible, was a relevant matter’.

    Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996), it is unlawful to fire an employee for refusing to return to a workplace because they believed there was a ‘serious and imminent danger’ they couldn’t reasonably avoid. Whether the steps the employee took were appropriate to avoid that danger must be judged ‘by reference to all the circumstances, including, in particular, his knowledge and the facilities and advice available to him at the time’.

    The employment tribunal ruled Accattatis’ requests were not appropriate steps because the company ‘reasonably and justifiably concluded’ that he could not work from home or claim furlough.

    But Judge James Tayler agreed at a hearing on 9 February 2023 that it is arguable the tribunal misinterpreted the law and allowed the appeal to proceed. Accattatis will also be able to argue that the reason Fortuna gave for his dismissal was not properly distinguished from managers’ low opinion of him.

    He had asked his bosses several times about working from home, which he felt was possible. Fortuna and the tribunal disagreed that Accattatis was needed in the office to manage deliveries of equipment and use specialist software, the 2021 judgment noted. He sent several emails throughout April 2020 while on sick leave for a suspected case of Covid-19 urging managers to place him on furlough. ‘I can assure you I already received confirmation from several sources that [the] coronavirus job retention scheme is easily accessible, by any company still actively trading during this time of emergency, without any downside to it’, one email reads. His counsel said this demonstrated Accattatis’ belief that furlough was possible and that urging Fortuna to reconsider was an appropriate step. ‘It’s the manner of the demands, that they were impertinent, that was the reason for the dismissal’, he said.

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    Further Information:

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

  • Employment Law Case Update – July 2022

    This month we look at the saga of the ‘fire and rehire’ issue affecting Tesco employees and how whistleblowers can be fairly dismissed depending on their conduct. We also have two interesting cases about how direct discrimination can be viewed – the doctor who refused to address transgender people by their chosen pronouns who had not been discriminated against versus the feminist who expressed beliefs which could not be objected to (as core beliefs) even though they were capable of causing offence, and was discriminated against.

    • Fire and Rehire: Court of Appeal overturns injunction restraining termination and re-engagement of Tesco employees
    • Whistleblowing: Whistleblower’s dismissal not automatically unfair as decision-makers’ view of conduct when making protected disclosures separable from content or fact of disclosures
    • Direct Discrimination: EAT upholds tribunal decision that Christian doctor was not discriminated against for refusing to address transgender people by their chosen pronoun
    • Direct Discrimination: Gender critical feminist suffered direct discrimination for expressing her beliefs in a manner that was not “objectively offensive”

    Fire and Rehire: Court of Appeal overturns injunction restraining termination and re-engagement of Tesco employees

    In USDAW and others v Tesco Stores Ltd [2022] EWHC 201, the Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s injunction restraining Tesco from dismissing and re-engaging a group of warehouse operatives to remove a contractual pay enhancement known as “Retained Pay“. This had been incorporated through collective bargaining with the trade union USDAW as a retention incentive during a reorganisation. The collective agreement stated that the enhanced pay would be a “permanent feature” of each affected employee’s contractual entitlement, and could only be changed through mutual consent, or on promotion to a new role.  

    The High Court had found that there was an implied term not to use termination and re-engagement as a means of removing Retained Pay. However, the Court of Appeal held that such an implied term was not justified. Neither could the employees rely on promissory estoppel since there had been no unequivocal promises related to termination. Furthermore, it was not “unconscionable” to remove a benefit that the employees had already received for over a decade and that far exceeded any redundancy payment to which they would have been entitled had they not accepted the Retained Pay.

    In any event, even if there had been a breach, the court held that the injunction was not justified. The court was not aware of any previous cases in which a final injunction had been granted to prevent a private sector employer from dismissing an employee for an indefinite period. Moreover, the terms of the injunction had not been sufficiently clear.  

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    Whistleblowing: Whistleblower’s dismissal not automatically unfair as decision-makers’ view of conduct when making protected disclosures separable from content or fact of disclosures

    In Kong v Gulf International Bank (UK) Ltd [2022] EWCA Civ 941, the Court of Appeal has upheld the EAT’s decision that an employment tribunal directed itself properly on the issue of the separability of the protected disclosures made by an employee and the reason in the minds of the decision-makers for her dismissal. The tribunal had properly considered and applied the guidance on the issue set out in authorities such as Martin v Devonshire Solicitors UKEAT/0086/10 and NHS Manchester v Fecitt and others [2012] IRLR 64. Despite the fact that the tribunal had found that the employee’s conduct when making the protected disclosures had been broadly reasonable and she had not, as alleged, questioned her colleague’s professional integrity, her dismissal was not automatically unfair because the decision-makers believed that she had acted unreasonably. The reason for dismissal in the minds of the decision-makers could be properly separable from the fact of the protected disclosures being made. The court rejected the submissions of Protect as intervenor that an employee’s conduct in making a disclosure should only be properly considered separable from the making of a protected disclosure where that conduct constitutes wholly unreasonable behaviour or serious misconduct.  

    This decision makes it clear that even where a worker’s conduct is not objectively unreasonable when they make a protected disclosure, their employer may escape liability when it treats them detrimentally or dismisses them because it subjectively believes that the manner in which they made the disclosures was unreasonable. However, the court stressed that particularly close scrutiny of an employer’s reasons for treating them detrimentally would be needed in such a case to ensure that the real reason for adverse treatment was not the protected disclosure itself.  

    It is understood that the employee is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.  

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    Direct Discrimination: EAT upholds tribunal decision that Christian doctor was not discriminated against for refusing to address transgender people by their chosen pronoun

    In Mackereth v DWP [2022] EAT 99, the EAT has held that a tribunal did not err in dismissing a Christian doctor’s claims of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and harassment on grounds of religion or belief because of his refusal to address transgender service users by their chosen pronouns. He relied on his particular beliefs in the supremacy of Genesis 1:27 that a person cannot change their sex/gender at will, his lack of belief in what he described as “transgenderism” and his conscientious objection to “transgenderism“. However, Eady P, sitting with lay members, found that the tribunal had erred in several respects when applying the criteria from Grainger Plc v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09 to determine whether these beliefs were capable of protection under section 4 of the Equality Act 2010. In particular, the tribunal had erred in holding that the beliefs were not worthy of respect in a democratic society. This threshold must be set at a low level so as to allow for the protection not just of beliefs acceptable to the majority, but also of minority beliefs that might cause offence (approving Forstater v CGD Europe UKEAT/0105/20).  

    The tribunal had been entitled to find in the alternative that the direct discrimination and harassment claims were not made out. It was permissible to draw a distinction between Dr Mackereth’s beliefs and the way he manifested them, finding that any employee not prepared to utilise a service user’s chosen pronoun would have been treated the same way.  

    The tribunal had also been entitled to reject the indirect discrimination claim. In holding that the PCPs were necessary and proportionate, it carefully considered the lack of practical alternatives to face-to-face contact with service users. In noting that Dr Mackereth had not identified any further alternatives, over and above those considered and discounted by his employer, this did not amount to the imposition of the burden of proof on him.

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    Direct Discrimination: Gender critical feminist suffered direct discrimination for expressing her beliefs in a manner that was not “objectively offensive”

    In Forstater v CGD Europe and others ET/22200909/2019, an employment tribunal has upheld a claim of direct discrimination on ground of belief, where an individual’s contract was not renewed because she had expressed gender critical beliefs which some colleagues found offensive. This follows an earlier EAT judgment in which her gender critical beliefs had been held to be protected as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. They included the belief that a person’s sex is an immutable biological fact, not a feeling or an identity, and that a trans woman is not in reality a woman. The claimant had described a prominent gender-fluid individual as a “part-time cross dresser” and a “man in heels” who should not have accepted an accolade intended for female executives. She had also left a gender critical campaign booklet in the office (which she later apologised for) and posted a campaign video on twitter containing ominous music and imagery, which argued that gender self-ID put women and girls at greater risk.

    The respondents argued that it was the way in which the claimant had expressed her beliefs, and not the fact that she held them, that had been the reason for non-renewal. The tribunal held, following earlier case law, that the way in which a belief is manifested is only dissociable from the belief itself where it is done in a manner which is inappropriate or to which objection can reasonably be taken, bearing in mind an individual’s qualified right to manifest their belief under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In this case, the claimant’s tweets and other communications were little more than an assertion of the core protected belief (which could not be objected to even though it was capable of causing offence). In some cases the claimant had been provocative or mocking but this was the “common currency of debate” and was not objectively offensive or unreasonable.

    The claimant had also been victimised when her profile was taken off the respondent’s website after she talked to The Sunday Times about her discrimination case. However, her claims of indirect discrimination and harassment were dismissed.

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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