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Archive for October, 2014

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Employment Law Bulletin October 2014


Around about now, some parents-to-be will be thinking ahead to next April. Now they have something to think about in addition to choosing names, repainting the spare room and taking out a second mortgage to buy a pushchair. In less than nine months’ time babies will start to be born to mothers, fathers and partners or will be placed with adopters who are entitled to a new form of shared parental leave.

The key date is 5th April 2015; babies born or placed through adoption on or after then will trigger rights for their parents to share paid parental between them, rather than the mother taking all (or most of) the leave as maternity leave. The existing (and very rarely used) additional paternity leave rules will be replaced.

It may seem some way off, but now is the time for businesses to start considering how they will implement the new rights and preparing policies to deal with employees’ requests. The new rules are quite fiendish in their complexity and do raise some difficult practical issues. We will be hosting a seminar in the new year to give you the full picture, but if you can’t wait, do get in touch.

The birth of new antenatal rights

Sticking with the parent and child theme, the right to attend antenatal appointments during working hours has been extended. As of 1 October 2014, expectant fathers and the partners of pregnant women can request to take unpaid time off work to be present at pregnancy-related medical appointments, as well as classes like parentcraft. The right extends to intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement too.


Dismissal for non-criminal conduct

Okhiria v Royal Mail

Gross misconduct at work can also amount to criminal behaviour. But that crossover does not necessarily have a bearing on an employer’s internal procedures. It is perfectly possible that an employer can dismiss fairly even where the police decide not to prosecute or where there has been an acquittal.

Status is what it is

Plastering Contractors Stanmore v Holden

Mr Holden was employed by Plastering Contractors Stanmore (PCS) as a general labourer. Almost four years after he started it was agreed, in exchange for a payment of £200, that he would become a “labour-only subcontractor”.

From that point, PCS used him on an as-and-when basis although he worked almost exclusively for the company. His pay depended on the work he undertook, according to a tariff set by PCS. PCS provided some safety clothing and, if Mr Holden had to transport equipment between sites, he was provided with a vehicle.

Fixed term worker denied PHI

Hall v Xerox UK

Fixed term workers have their own branch of protection against discrimination. It is there to ensure that these workers, whose contracts are set to end on a particular date, are not (without justification) treated less favourably than permanent staff.

But, as Hall v Xerox UK illustrated, differences in treatment are sometimes beyond an employer’s control; and where that is the case, the employer cannot be liable.


Emergency time off

Ellis v Ratcliff Palfinger

Employees are entitled to take unpaid reasonable time off work to deal with dependant-related emergencies. It is subject to their telling the employer – as soon as reasonably practicable – why they are absent and for how long they expect to be off work.

And finally….

Elys v Marks & Spencer

It comes to something when you fall asleep at work.

For one employment tribunal lay member, this may have been the unfortunate reality when he was observed with his eyes closed at various points during a three-week hearing. He had been drooling and even received a nudge from the judge.

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