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Employment Law Update

Employment Brief Alerts - March 2018

£291k awarded to whistle-blower referred to as a “gypo” and “tinker”

Employment Tribunal judgments are now available online. This case decided in 2017 has recently been added the database and provides a depressing, and very public tale, of race discrimination and unlawful treatment of an employee who made a protected disclosure.

The tribunal in Bell v Cordant People Ltd accepted that Mr Bell, who was Irish and from a travelling background, had suffered race discrimination when he was referred to as “paddy,” “gypo” and “tinker,” and that references had been made to him travelling by horse and cart. He had not complained about these at the time, but the tribunal accepted that he had been offended by these comments. Mr Bell was awarded £8,353 for injury to feelings, which is at the high end of the lowest Vento bands, indicating that the tribunal consider this a less serious case.

Read more on the employment tribunal decision in Bell v Cordant People Ltd.

Weather disruption and employee rights

The recent snow resulted in travel disruption across most parts of the country. People in the worst affected areas were advised not to travel unless it was absolutely necessary. In Scotland, commuters were warned that travelling posed a “potential risk to life.” Major road networks were closed and many staff were not able to get to work.

Workers are not automatically entitled to be paid if they are not able to get to work because of bad weather. Where possible, it is sensible to allow staff to work remotely. Where this is not possible, employers can ask staff to take paid leave, provided they give adequate notice or to make the time up. If the workplace is closed, employers should pay their staff.

Read ACAS guidance on travel disruption and bad weather.

Morrisons latest supermarket to be hit by equal pay claim

According to reports, shop floor workers at Morrisons supermarket are arguing that the work they do is of equal value to that done by workers in distribution centres, and argue that they should paid equally. Approximately 70% of those working on the supermarket shop floor are women.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the female shop workers estimate that if all if all eligible workers join the action compensation figures could hit £100 million.

Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are all facing similar claims.

Government review to see how employers are improving ethnic minority progression in the workplace

The government has commissioned research into the steps employers have taken to remove barriers to workplace progression for ethnic minorities.

The research will investigate how employers have implemented the recommendations made in the independent McGregor-Smith Review into black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) participation and progression in the workplace. It will focus on the measures employers have used to prevent the bullying and harassment of BAME staff members, and the frequency at which companies have reported their ethnicity pay gap.

This review is expected to last one year.

Read more on this Government review of BAME participation and progression in the workplace.

New figures show 90% increase in Employment Tribunal claims

The Ministry of Justice has published provisional employment tribunal statistics for October to December 2017 which indicate that the abolition of tribunal fees has resulted in an increase in the numbers of claims lodged. Judged against the same period in 2016 (when fees were required) single tribunal claims have increased by 90%.

Even with this increase, claims are still significantly lower than they were prior to the introduction of fees and it will be interesting to see how far the numbers climb over the next few years.

The knock on effect of the increase in fees is that our tribunals are not coping with demand. These statistics suggest that there is a reduction in the time it takes to dispose of single and multiple claims but our recent experience is that complex claims are not being listed for hearing until 2019. We’ve also had several cases which have been cancelled the day before the hearing at huge cost to the parties.

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March 2018

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