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Belief in Scottish independence protected by law

The Scotsman reports that an employment tribunal has ruled that a belief in Scottish independence is “protected” under equality laws in a discrimination case involving a Scottish National Party (SNP) councillor. The tribunal accepted that this belief “has a sufficiently similar cogency to a religious belief” and qualifies as a philosophical belief.

Read more here: https://www.scotsman.com/news/belief-in-scottish-independence-protected-by-law-1-4779034

Business face further uncertainty about pay for sleep-in shifts

The union Unison has lodged an appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision last month in Mencap v Tomlinson-Blake, which decided that workers who are expected to sleep during their shifts are only "available for work" and are only entitled to receive the national minimum wage (NMW) if they are woken up to perform work.

Unison says that it believes the "Court of Appeal got this decision wrong and they will do everything they can to reverse it".

Technically, Unison is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Once it clears that hurdle, a date will be set down to determine the issue.

Find out more about the background to this case.

Is paid leave on the cards for carers?

The Government has set up a working group committed to exploring whether carers should be given up to five days statutory leave to help them cope with their caring responsibilities and remain in work. This announcement was made in response to recommendations contained in a report published by the Work and Pensions Committee.

The Government has not indicated when the committee will meet or how long it will take to consider this – read the full report here.

Sickness absences drop to lowest rate since 1993

The average number of sickness absence days taken by UK workers has halved since 1993, according to a dataset released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Suggested reasons for the decrease are an improvement in healthy life expectancy, workers being less likely to receive sick pay in the private sector, and an increasing number of people attending work even if they are ill.

The full ONS dataset is available here.

Tribunal fees: 80% not yet refunded

Employment Tribunal fees were abolished in July 2017 and a system was set up for claimants and some respondents to reclaim these. Despite that, only 20% of the predicted £33 million has been refunded.

The Government has said that it has sent out approximately 10,000 letters per month to individuals/organisations who are potentially eligible for a refund.

Read more here: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/one-year-on-80-of-tribunal-refunds-unpaid/5067108.article

Inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act

Legislation on workers' rights can be complex and difficult to understand, leading to challenges in enforcing individual rights through employment tribunals and courts.

For these reasons the Women and Equalities Commons Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act 2010. Previous recommendations made by the Committee include extending time limits to bring cases about pregnancy & maternity and sexual harassment; having adequate financial penalties; increasing the use by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of its enforcement powers; and regulators stepping up to tackle discrimination.

The Committee is inviting views on a range of matters, which include:

  • How easy it is for people to understand and enforce their rights
  • How well enforcement action works to achieve widescale change
  • How effective and accessible tribunals and other legal means of redress under the Equality Act are, and what changes would improve the processes for seeking redress
  • Whether there are other models of enforcement, in the UK or other countries, which could be a more effective means of achieving widespread compliance with the Equality Act 2010, either overall or in specific sectors.

Written submissions are invited by Friday 5 October 2018 using the written submission form.

Proposals to close the gender pay gap

The House of Commons’ Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has made recommendations to close the gender pay gap including:

  • Extending the duty to companies with 50 or more employees.
  • Providing an explanation for pay disparity and setting out how the organisation plans to reduce this
  • Providing data in deciles rather than quartiles
  • Giving the Equalities and Human Rights Commission specific enforcement powers, to levy fines for non-compliance.

The Government has not yet responded to these recommendations – read the full report here.

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Shazia Khan