Employment News – Case Update April 2022
A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published over the last month including more definitions between workers and self-employed contractors, indirect discrimination and harassment, unfair dismissal and TUPE.
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  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  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.
Contract: No dismissal where employer invokes contractual PILON after employee’s resignation to bring forward termination date
In Fentem v Outform EMEA Ltd  EAT 36, the EAT has held that is bound by the decision in Marshall (Cambridge) v Hamblin  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  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.
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  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.
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  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 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.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employment Law Newsletter – December 2019
- Sex discrimination: Direct discrimination not to pay a ‘London Allowance’ to police officer on maternity leave
- Worker status: A substitution clause in a service contract may not automatically preclude ‘worker’ status
- Unfair dismissal: Was it caused by hidden reason (whistle-blowing) or invented reason (capability)?
- Unfair Dismissal: Automatically unfair if hidden reason is trade union activities
- TUPE: Protection could extend to workers, not just employees
- ICO: Find out if you need to pay the data protection fee
- ONS: Pay gap for disabled workers is 12.2%
- Modern Slavery: 75% of global hotel companies in UK failing to meet minimum requirements
Sex discrimination: Direct discrimination not to pay a ‘London Allowance’ to police officer on maternity leave
In City of London Police v Geldart UKEAT/0032/19/RN the EAT found in favour of a female claimant who was entitled to a ‘London Allowance’ payable to serving police officers in both the City of London and Metropolitan Police forces (pursuant to Part 6 of the Police Regulations 2003). This is a non-pensionable payment which is distinct from salary and ‘London Weighting’. The Police force had stopped paying her London Allowance when her maternity pay ceased during maternity leave.
Both the tribunal and the EAT found that there was nothing in the Police Regulations which meant the London Allowance should stop being payable during maternity leave, and cited the example that the allowance was also payable when an officer was suspended from duty. It was distinguished from certain allowances to cover expenses incurred when performing duties which were capable of being stopped. Failing to pay the London Allowance during maternity leave was therefore an act of direct sex discrimination contrary to section 39(2) of the Equality Act 2010.
In this matter, the claimant did not have to show that the Police force would have treated a male officer more favourably (i.e. used a comparator) because she was treated unfavourably on the ground of her pregnancy or maternity. As a result, she was the victim of sex discrimination and does not need to, and indeed cannot, prove that a man would have been treated differently (as set out in Webb v EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd  ICR 770).
Worker status: A substitution clause in a service contract may not automatically preclude ‘worker’ status
In Stuart Delivery Ltd v Augustine UKEAT/0219/18/BA Mr Augustine was a delivery courier working for Stuart Delivery in fixed hours ‘slots’ (typically around 3 hours). During the slot Mr Augustine was under the control of Stuart Delivery, he was not able to leave the zone he had agreed to operate in and was required to undertake the deliveries offered to him in return for a guaranteed hourly wage. He could not hold himself out as available to other delivery companies during the period of a slot. Mr Augustine could release a slot he had signed up to back into the pool of approved couriers via Stuart Delivery’s Staffomatic app.
The tribunal, and the EAT, found that the use of the Staffomatic app to release a slot, and therefore extricate himself from work, was not of the character of a substitution clause which would deny him ‘worker’ status. The EAT held that the tribunal had correctly found that Mr Augustine would only be released from the obligation of performing the slot himself if another courier signed up for it. Therefore, he had no control over whether, or who, picked up the slot he had released. This did not amount to a ‘right’ of substitution, or a provision that was inconsistent with limb (b) worker status (as set out in s.230(3)(b) ERA1996).
Unfair dismissal: Was it caused by hidden reason (whistle-blowing) or invented reason (capability)?
The case of Royal Mail Group v Jhuti  UKSC 55 has been progressing for some time (we reported the decision of the EAT in July 2016, and the Court of Appeal in October 2017) and it has now been considered by the Supreme Court.
The facts are that having made a protected disclosure (whistleblowing) to her line manager, Ms Jhuti was dismissed due to capability (he had retaliated by scrutinizing her performance) following deliberate misleading of the investigating manager by the same line manager because of the disclosure. Ms Jhuti claimed unfair dismissal, which was rejected by the tribunal but on appeal, the EAT found in favour of the claimant on the basis that just because the HR department was ignorant of the full facts (the investigating manager didn’t know about the whistleblowing, so couldn’t have been motivated by it), the original line manager who had had the full facts had manipulated the decision by engineering the dismissal with the whistleblowing in mind. Given his position, that responsibility fell on the employer, and therefore she had been unfairly dismissed, even though the person with actual decision-making responsibility had been unaware of it.
The Court of Appeal reversed this decision but the Supreme Court agreed with the EAT, stating that “if a person in the hierarchy of responsibility above the employee determines that she (or he) should be dismissed for a reason but hides it behind an invented reason which the decision-maker adopts, the reason for the dismissal is the hidden reason rather than the invented reason.”
Unfair Dismissal: Automatically unfair if hidden reason is trade union activities
In Cadent Gas Limited v Singh  UKEAT 0024_19_0810 Mr Singh was a gas engineer with 29 years’ service and an unblemished record. He was also a health and safety representative and trade union shop steward. He was required to respond to priority gas leaks without delay. One day, he was called out to a gas leak at 1.13am. He accepted the job despite having not slept or eaten much all day. Without informing dispatch he stopped for some food on the way to the call out, arriving at the premises 1 minute outside the hour stipulated in the service level agreement.
Mr Singh had previously had problems with Mr Huckerby, a senior manager, in relation to his trade union activities. Mr Huckerby noted that Mr Singh had been late, then played a leading role in the investigation, although this was not the norm, and told others that he wanted to keep the trade union activities “on the radar”. He also gave incorrect information to HR and to the dismissing officer in the course of the investigation. The disciplinary hearing was conducted by another manager, who had not had any prior involvement. He decided to dismiss Mr Singh for gross misconduct. Mr Singh claimed unfair dismissal on the ground of his trade union activities contrary to s.152 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
The Tribunal upheld his claim, concluding that the managers who conducted the disciplinary hearing and appeal were not motivated by prejudice against Mr Singh for his trade union activities, although Mr Huckerby was. The employer appealed but the EAT dismissed the appeal, holding that the investigation was inadequate and the dismissal automatically unfair. On the basis that even though the other managers were not motivated by prejudice, it did not preclude a finding that trade union activities played a part in their reasoning, following the decision in Royal Mail Group v Jhuti (see previous case review above) whereby the motivation and knowledge of someone who is not a decision-maker may be attributed to the employer if (as here) that person is engaged in and had manipulated the investigatory process.
TUPE: Protection could extend to workers, not just employees
Under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE), the definition of employee is given as “an individual who works for another person whether under a contract of service or apprenticeship or otherwise”. In the case of Dewhurst v Revisecatch Ltd t/a Ecourier  UKET 2201909/2018, Judge Joffe has interpreted the ‘or otherwise’ part to include workers, citing the Acquired Rights Directive which states that TUPE should be interpreted liberally.
Workers affected by a TUPE transfer have the right to be informed about and consulted on it, under the regulations, and failure to do so can result in compensation of up to 13 weeks’ pay per person. Transferor employers have to include details of the workers on the Employee Liability Information. Currently, only traditional employees benefit from the provisions on automatic unfair dismissal as a consequence of a TUPE transfer. However, whilst this is first instance case, and therefore not currently binding, it is likely to be appealed and could therefore impact future decisions if this interpretation is upheld. Employers are therefore warned to be alert to this case and if involved in a TUPE transfer may consider including any workers in order to minimise risk or may wish to seek additional indemnities from other parties to a transaction to deal with this potential risk.
ICO: Find out if you need to pay the data protection fee
The Information Commissioner has recently announced that it is contacting all UK registered companies reminding them of their legal responsibility to pay a data protection fee. Organisations processing personal information are required to pay a data protection fee unless they are exempt. Check their website (link above) to see if you need to pay or if you are exempt, and how you can contact them to pay or complete their exemption form.
ONS: Pay gap for disabled workers is 12.2%
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently published a report entitled ‘Disability pay gaps in the UK: 2018’. Using data from 2018, the report presents the first analysis of disability pay gaps in the UK using newly reweighted earnings data from the Annual Population Survey. The main points are these:
- Median pay was consistently higher for non-disabled employees than for disabled employees; median pay for non-disabled employees was £12.11 an hour whilst for disabled employees it was £10.63 an hour, resulting in a pay gap of 12.2%.
- The disability pay gap was wider for men than for women.
- London had the widest disability pay gap at 15.3% and the narrowest pay gap was in Scotland, at 8.3%.
- Disabled employees with a mental impairment had the largest pay gap at 18.6%, while for those with a physical impairment the pay gap was 9.7% and those with other impairments had the narrowest gap, at 7.4%.
- Around a quarter of the difference in mean pay can be accounted for by factors such as occupation and qualification.
Modern Slavery: 75% of global hotel companies in UK failing to meet minimum requirements
In a shocking report produced by a collaborative partnership of philanthropic organisations and campaigners, a study of 71 global hotel companies in the UK shows that four years after the introduction of the Act, only 18 have met the minimum requirements of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. These requirements include publishing a modern slavery statement which should include information on the following:
- disclose their structure, business and supply chains providing information about risks in supply chains and in direct operations,
- having policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking,
- due diligence processes undertaken, assessing actual and potential human rights impacts,
- risk assessment and management.
Whilst this report highlights the problems with enforcement by the government, another issue in such a high-risk sector, is the threshold of a £36m annual turnover set by the Act, which means that most hotels in the UK are not even subject to the law. With such a vulnerable workforce, the report has made a number of recommendations. One of which is the creation of a monitoring body to survey corporate compliance with the Act.
Further information on Modern Slavery can be found on the government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/modern-slavery.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
Employment Law Newsletter – March 2019
- TUPE: Dismissal due to difficult working relationship may be automatically unfair
- Contract: When ‘Bad Leaver’ provisions may be considered a penalty or an unlawful deduction from wages
- Employment Status: Is a quarterly ‘exclusivity’ payment evidence that an individual is an employee?
- Worker Status: Pimlico plumber ‘worker’ loses holiday pay claim
- Equality Act: Is it unfair to send woman on maternity leave an important email she cannot access?
- Indirect Discrimination: Justification of rule more important than application of rule to individual
- Data Protection: ICO and Insolvency Service work together to disqualify directors in new record
- BREXIT: ICO website contains SME Brexit preparation tools
- Data Protection: Vote Leave Ltd fined £40,000 by ICO
- Immigration: Seasonal workers pilot opens
- Modern Slavery: Annual anti-slavery audit will result in naming and shaming the non-compliers
- Holiday Pay: BEIS publishes guidance and online calculator for workers without fixed hours/pay
- Wages: National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage set to increase from 1 April
TUPE: Can a dismissal due to difficult working relationship be automatically unfair?
In Hare Wines Ltd v Kaur  EWCA Civ 216 the question before the Court of Appeal was whether the Claimant’s dismissal for purely ‘personal reasons’, was a sufficient reason to prevent the dismissal from being automatically unfair as it related to a TUPE transfer. In this case, Mrs Kaur was a cashier for a wine wholesaler, which had been run by several different businesses during the time she had worked there, with common directors/shareholders. In 2014, the business was transferred under TUPE to Hare Wines Ltd. Mrs Kaur and Mr Chatha were colleagues with a strained working relationship. Mr Chatha became a director of Hare Wines Ltd. On the day of the transfer, Mrs Kaur was dismissed, and all the rest of the employees transferred under TUPE to Hare Wines Ltd. Mrs Kaur claimed this was automatically unfair as it was related to the transfer, and the tribunal agreed.
Hare Wines Ltd argued that Mrs Kaur had objected to the transfer because she did not wish to work with Mr Chatha, who was to become a director. However, the tribunal held that this was not the case, and that the real reason was that the business did not want her because it may have continuing difficulties between the individuals. On appeal to the EAT and then the Court of Appeal, the tribunal’s finding that she had not objected was upheld and that the reason for the dismissal was not that she had been dismissed because of her difficulties with Mr Chatha with the transfer being coincidental, it was that the employer did not want her because she and Mr Chatha did not get on. This was the principal reason. The relationship had been strained for some time and she had not been dismissed until the transfer was to happen, therefore the two were linked. The Court of Appeal noted that dismissals for economic, technical or organisational (aka ‘ETO’) reasons connected with transfers can be fair, but the law does not recognise any category of ‘personal’ reason for dismissal as preventing a transfer-related dismissal from being automatically unfair.
Contract: When ‘Bad Leaver’ provisions may be considered a penalty or an unlawful deduction from wages
In Nosworthy v Instinctif Partners Ltd UKEAT/0100/18, Miss Nosworthy had entered in to a Share Purchase Agreement and Articles of Association with the company, which contained some common bad leaver conditions. The conditions meant that a shareholder who is also an employee who voluntarily resigns is considered to be a bad leaver . In this case, the bad leaver provisions meant that when Miss Nosworthy resigned she was forced to forfeit deferred earn-out shares and loan notes – i.e. transfer her shares – with the value of the shares being determined at the acquisition cost (which was £143 for her 2% share). Miss Nosworthy claimed this forced transfer was a contract connected with employment and therefore could be considered to be unconscionable, a penalty or an unlawful deduction from wages
The tribunal disagreed, and this finding was upheld by the EAT. The criteria for setting aside an agreement as unconscionable were not satisfied – there had been no serious disadvantage. It was not a penalty as a result of a breach of contract, because it was a term of the Articles of Association which applied to any bad leaver, regardless of breach, and was not a breach of contract. Furthermore, the company’s remuneration committee, which had the power to reclassify her as a good leaver, had not failed to exercise its discretion in good faith because there were no exceptional circumstances for it to take into account. Lastly, it was not an unlawful deduction from wages, because the definition only covers payments made in respect of her capacity as a worker, whereas the shares were provided to her as a shareholder.
Employment Status: Is a quarterly ‘exclusivity’ payment evidence that an individual is an employee?
In Exmoor Ales Ltd & Another v Herriot UKEAT/0075/18/RN theEAT Mrs Herriot had provided accountancy services for Exmoor Ales, a brewery, for nearly three decades, submitting invoices from her partnership. Since 2011, the brewery had paid her £1,000 each quarter, which Mrs Herriot claimed was an exclusivity payment, but which the respondents denied. In 2017 Mrs Herriot brought claims against the brewery just before her work relationship with it ended. The claims were for unfair dismissal, age discrimination, holiday pay, failure to provide a statement of written particulars of employment, harassment and victimisation.
The tribunal found, on the evidence, that the quarterly payment did indeed change the nature of the relationship from that point onwards and that she did in fact, stop working for other clients. The brewery had also given her allocated seating in their premises, she was fully integrated into their business, and exercised a high level of control over her whilst at work. It was also noted that there was mutuality of obligations between the parties from April 2011 onwards, and she had no right to appoint a substitute. The tribunal therefore held that until that time, Mrs Herriot had been an independent contractor providing accountancy services to the brewery but after the quarterly payments started, she was in actual fact an employee.
The brewery appealed arguing that the tribunal had not looked at all the relevant factors on employment status, including her tax arrangements, and that she had prepared employment contracts for other staff but not herself, and was not a member of the employee share scheme. These were rejected by the EAT, however, because the tribunal had considered these elements but found the factors highlighted by it had overridden those identified by the Respondents. In this instance, the quarterly exclusivity payment had been an influencing factor although in reality it was the effect it had on their respective behaviours that led the tribunal and EAT to find her to be a de facto employee.
Worker Status: Pimlico plumber ‘worker’ loses holiday pay claim
Last year the Supreme Court ruled in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd & Another v Smith that the plumbers had been employed by Pimlico Plumbers as workers rather than being hired as independent contractors. As workers, this meant they were entitled to some basic employment rights such as the right to be paid the national minimum wage and holiday pay. At the end of his successful seven year battle with Pimlico Plumbers, Mr Smith began proceedings in the Croydon employment tribunal for backdated holiday pay. However, the tribunal ruled that he had not filed his claim quickly enough – the regulations state that claims for missed pay should be filed within 3 months of each holiday period, dating back to 2005. His claim amounted to £74,000. He is going to appeal this decision because he did not know he was entitled to paid leave while he was employed by Pimlico Plumbers so did not bring a claim until after his contract was terminated in May 2011.
Equality Act: Is it unfair to send woman on maternity leave an important email she cannot access?
In South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust v Jackson UKEAT/0090/18/BA the claimant was on maternity leave when she became part of a number of staff at risk of redundancy who were then sent an email by the HR department to their work email addresses, which the claimant could not access, setting out redeployment opportunities. She was not able to open the email for several days but this in itself did not cause her substantial harm. However, it raised a legitimate concern that such behaviour was unfavourable treatment (s.18(4) of the Equality Act) because she was exercising her right to take maternity leave, and it is on this ground that she made a claim.
The tribunal upheld her claim. However, the EAT found that the tribunal had erred in its approach to the causation test. Although the unfavourable treatment would not have happened “but for” the fact that the Claimant was on maternity leave, the tribunal had not considered whether this was the “reason why” she had been treated unfavourably. There was no finding by the tribunal as to why the Claimant was not able to access her emails, as she had in fact attended a meeting a few days before despite being on maternity leave.
Mr Justice Shanks said, the “ET must ask itself the standard “reason why” question in relation to why the unfavourable treatment took place and that it is not sufficient for the “but for” test to be satisfied for there to be a finding of discrimination under section 18.” He went on to say that it did not seem as if the tribunal had found that the characteristic of being on maternity leave had been on anyone’s mind, nor had the tribunal decided that an inherently discriminatory rule had been applied in this case. It seems to have been pure administrative error and therefore the test used by the tribunal was that ‘but for being on maternity leave, the Claimant would not have been disadvantaged’, which was not sufficient for a finding of discrimination. As a result the case was remitted back to the tribunal for further findings.
Contract: Suspending an employee does not always breach the implied term of trust and confidence
In The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo  EWCA Civ 322 a primary school teacher was accused of using excessive force with two pupils with special educational needs, and suspended pending investigation as a result. The teacher, Ms Agoreyo, resigned the same day. She claimed that the suspension had been a knee-jerk reaction and that an investigation did not require suspension. The suspension was a repudiatory breach of contract – a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence between them, and she was entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal.
At first instance, the County Court found that the school had reasonable and proper cause for her suspension. The claim was dismissed. Ms Agoreyo appealed. The High Court allowed the appeal on the basis that suspension should not be the default option – an individual should be suspended only if there is no reasonable alternative. The school had said the suspension was a neutral act but the High Court disagreed and said that it is never a neutral act. Ms Agoreyo’s resignation letter neither negated nor undermined the case on breach of the implied term as to trust and confidence.
On further appeal however, the Court of Appeal agreed with the County Court, and held there was no breach of trust and confidence. It found the High Court had erred in its test of whether it was necessaryto suspend was setting the bar too high and the correct legal test was whether the school had had reasonable and proper cause to suspend Ms Agoreyo. The County Court judge was entitled to hold that it did and Ms Agoreyo’s claim that her suspension was a breach of contract failed.
Indirect Discrimination: Justification of rule more important than application of rule to individual
In The City of Oxford Bus Services Limited t/a Oxford Bus Company v Harvey UKEAT/0171/18/JOJ a bus company had instituted a rule in the rostering system that bus drivers had to work 5 out of 7 days, including Saturdays or Sundays. Mr Harvey was a Seventh Day Adventist who asked not to work between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday so that he could observe the Sabbath. The bus company had given him a service that was able to take this into account but it was not a permanent arrangement and so he subsequently had to swap shifts or call in absent from work on the days when he was required to work a shift on Friday evening or Saturday daytime. They had also offered him flexible working but in the meantime he had brought a claim of indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.
The bus company argued that it feared that if it agreed to this as a permanent arrangement, more drivers would ask for time off for other religious reasons, particularly events and festivals, and this might result in industrial unrest. At tribunal it was accepted that the bus company’s working arrangements imposed a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ (“PCP”) that placed Mr Harvey at a disadvantage. So, the question then was, whether the PCP was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The tribunal found that the bus company had established legitimate aims of ensuring efficiency, fairness to all staff, and recruitment and retention. In upholding Mr Harvey’s claim, however, the tribunal ruled that the PCP was not justified becausethere was insufficient evidence to support one of the legitimate aims – maintaining a ‘harmonious workforce’.
On appeal to the EAT the decision was overturned the decision. It was incorrect of the tribunal to focus on the particular application of the rule on the claimant rather than the general justification for the rule. The tribunal had recognised that the bus company’s problems arose not from granting the Mr Harvey’s request, but from granting many such requests, and in doing so meant it had failed to balance the general aims of the bus company with the potentially discriminatory impact of the rule. The judge remitted the case back to the original tribunal to reconsider this issue.
Data Protection: ICO and Insolvency Service work together to disqualify directors in new record
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has carried out investigations into nuisance marketing which, by working with the Insolvency Service, has led to 16 company directors being banned from running a company for more than 100 years in total. One of the worst offenders was Richard Jones who has been barred from being a company director for eight years after his two companies, Your Money Rights Ltd and Miss-Sold Products UK Ltd were responsible for 220 million automated nuisance calls, most of which were in respect of PPI claims. The companies’ breaches resulted in total fines of £700,000 in 2017, which Mr Jones then tried to avoid by applying to wind up the companies. This was blocked by the ICO which then referred the case on to the Insolvency Service.
New legislation which came into force in December 2018 means that the ICO now has powers to make company directors and other company officers personally liable for the fines imposed for illegal marketing.
BREXIT: ICO website contains SME Brexit preparation tools
Who knows what the next few weeks have in store, but that’s not very helpful for businesses. Whilst most businesses may well be more prepared than the government, the ICO has produced guidance and practical tools to help organisations prepare in terms of their data, including: Data Protection and Brexit Law enforcement processing: Five steps to take, Data protection in the event of a no-deal Brexit, aimed at UK based businesses or organisations to which the GDPR or Part 3 of the Data Protection Act 2018 currently applies to their processing of personal data.
Data Protection: Vote Leave Ltd fined £40,000 by ICO
Vote Leave Limited has recently been fined £40,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending out thousands of unsolicited text messages run up to the 2016 EU referendum. An ICO investigation found that Vote Leave sent 196,154 text messages promoting the aims of the Leave campaign with the majority containing a link to its website. Vote Leave claimed the contact information it had used to message people was obtained from enquiries which had come through their website; from individuals who had responded via text to promotional leaflets; and from entrants to a football competition. However, the organisation said that following the conclusion of the referendum campaign it had deleted evidence of the consent relied upon to send the messages. Also deleted were details of the phone numbers the messages were sent from, the volume of messages sent, and the volume of messages received. Being unable to provide evidence that the people who received the messages had given their consent (a key requirement of electronic marketing law) made them liable for this fine.
This latest fine is part of the ICO’s ongoing investigation into the use of data in political campaigns. As a result of the investigation the ICO has taken action against a number of different organisations engaged in campaigning for breaches of direct marketing and data protection laws.
Immigration: Seasonal workers’ pilot opens
In September 2018, the Home Secretary and Environment Secretary announced that, having listened to farmers, they were introducing a nationwide pilot scheme seasonal workers to bring seasonal migrant workers to UK farms. The pilot opened on 6 March meaning that UK fruit and vegetable farmers will be able to employ migrant workers for seasonal work for up to 6 months. Subject to recruitment and visa application processes, the pilot, which runs until the end of December 2020, will allow up to 2,500 workers from outside the EU into the UK each year. Concordia and Pro-Force are the two scheme operators who have been licensed to manage the pilot. It is their responsibility to identify suitable workers who they will then match to UK farmers, as well as ensuring the welfare of the workers whilst they are in the UK.
The aim is to test the effectiveness of the immigration system at alleviating labour shortages during peak production periods.The pilot will be reviewed before any decisions are taken on running a future scheme.
Modern Slavery: Annual anti-slavery audit will result in naming and shaming the non-compliers
In October 2018, the Home Office was moved to action following pressure from numerous groups frustrated by what they see as ‘blatant compliance failures’. It began with the Home Office writing directly to the chief executives of 17,000 businesses telling them to open up about modern slavery in their supply chains, or risk being named as in breach of the Modern Slavery Act. The letter gave the companies a grace period to comply – which ends on 31 March 2019.
Those businesses which do not comply by the deadline date will be “named and shamed” in a public report. The ‘naming and shaming’ is seen as a prelude to strengthening the reporting requirements under the legislation and, possibly, introducing sanctions for non-compliance.
The government reports that:
Businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million must publish annual transparency statements, known as a Modern Slavery Statement, setting out what they are doing to stop modern slavery and forced labour practices occurring in their business and supply chains. At the moment, it is estimated that 60% of companies in scope have published a statement. Whilst there are many examples of good practice, some of these statements are poor in quality or fail to even meet the basic legal requirements.
Holiday Pay: BEIS publishes guidance and online calculator for workers without fixed hours/pay
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published guidance and an online calculator on how to calculate holiday pay for workers whose hours or pay are not fixed. This guidance is intended to help employers pay the correct amount of holiday pay for all their workers.
In simple terms, the Working Time Regulations 1998 mean that almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year, with the pay being calculated based on the amount of hours they work and how they are paid for those hours. For workers who do not work fixed or regular hours, and therefore do not receive the same amount of pay each week, month or other pay period, it can be more complicated. This guidance helps employers calculate holiday for such workers, using the holiday pay reference period (a worker’s previous 12 week paid period) and gives examples of what to do if you don’t have 12 weeks of data, when the reference period starts, what the definition of week is, etc.
Wages: National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage set to increase from 1 April
In the Budget 2018, in response to the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced new National Minimum/Living Wageincreases from 1 April 2019 as follows:
- from £7.83 to £8.21 for workers aged 25 and over (the National Living Wage)
- from £7.38 to £7.70 for 21-24 year olds
- from £5.90 to £6.15 for 18-20 year olds
- from £4.20 to £4.35 for 16-17 year olds
- from £3.70 to £3.90 for apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org.