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Archive for March, 2015

Monday 16 March 2015

Employment Law Bulletin March 2015


Employment law is in the news again, with the continuing fallout from Jeremy Clarkson’s fisticuffs. Rarely have the employment consequences of punching someone at work been debated so feverishly.  We promise not to jump on the bandwagon by writing earnest articles debating whether it is a dismissable offence and secondly noting that now would be a good time to review your disciplinary policy – this is one time when the answer really is as obvious as it seems…..

Shared Parental Leave

There is not long to go before new shared parental leave entitlements begin. Parents of babies expected on or after 5 April 2015 will be able to share up to 50 weeks off work, something which the government hopes will kick-start a feeling of empowerment among fathers to spend more time with their children.

It is estimated that 285,000 working couples each year will be eligible for the new leave arrangements. They will need to comply with some fairly complicated notice arrangements, which includes giving their employers eight weeks’ notice of the pattern of leave they plan to take.

Sending email was repudiatory breach
Williams v Leeds United Football Club

Mr Williams was employed by Leeds as technical director when he was given notice of redundancy. His contract would terminate at the end of his 12-month notice period (as the Club later agreed), or earlier if he was guilty of gross misconduct.

Shortly after receiving his redundancy notice, he was summarily dismissed on the grounds that five years earlier he had sent obscene and pornographic material from his work email account to a friend at a different club. It was later discovered that Mr Williams had also forwarded the email to two other people – one of whom was a female receptionist at Leeds.

Reasonable investigation
Shrestha v Genesis Housing

How much investigation is it reasonable to carry out where misconduct is alleged? It is a question every employer asks from time to time because a great deal hinges on what is discovered, and what could be discovered, by carefully looking into all the circumstances. And employers know just how important it is to reach the right conclusions. In Shrestha v Genesis the employee argued that his employer had not done enough.

Mr Shrestha was a mobile worker; he travelled by car to visit clients in their homes and he submitted mileage claims. When his claims were audited, it was suspected that he had been over-claiming. At his disciplinary hearing he explained that the high mileage was due to difficulties in parking, one-way road systems and roadworks.

Victimisation compensation reduced
Das v Ayrshire & Arran Health Board

Successful claimants do not always get the compensation they think they are entitled to. One reason is the possibility of awards being reduced to reflect the part the claimant played in what happened to them. In this case, it came down to how likely it was that the claimant would have got the job he felt he been denied the opportunity of getting.

Compensation on the rise

Can it really have been a year? Yes, it can, and the annual compensation limit increases are with us again.

The main changes are:

  • maximum week’s pay for redundancy payments will be £475
  • maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will be £78,335 (although still subject to a cap of a year’s pay, if less)

These figures will apply to dismissals from 6 April 2015.

Another look at employee status
Stack v Ajar-Tec

Mr Stack was a company director who, last year, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held was not an employee. He had no formal employment arrangement with the company and no contract, he had other business interests, and he was not paid for the work he did. There could not be a binding contract if he was not being paid, the EAT held.

Affirmation of contract
Mari v Reuters

Constructive dismissal is time-sensitive. If an employee waits too long after the alleged breach of contract before resigning – and if they show an intention for the employment relationship to continue – the likelihood is that their claim will fail. That is because they will have been taken to have affirmed the employment contract – in other words, treated it as still valid and continuing.

That is what happened to Ms Mari, a systems support analyst at Reuters. She had been off work for five months with stress, anxiety and depression. When she returned, her previous work area had been reallocated and she was given no specific work area. She was continually given work which was well below her level of expertise and was badly treated by colleagues. She raised a grievance but that did not resolve the situation. She then went on sick leave with stress and depression.

And finally…

E-cigarettes (and for the more extreme hipsters out there, e-pipes, apparently) are everywhere – including at work. Employers, however, have not all been quick to update their policies to reflect this.

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