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Archive for April, 2015

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Employment Law Bulletin April 2015


Time for some employment law changes – just in time for it all to be changed again after the election, judging by some of the campaigning.

The most headline-grabbing change is the new right for qualifying parents to take shared parental leave, which we trailed last month and so won’t bore you with now (but if you would like to hear more, do get in touch). There are other family-friendly provisions coming into force now too, including surrogate parents’ eligibility for leave and wider rights for adoptive and other parents.

Diet-controlled diabetes was not a disability
Metroline Travel v Stoute

What does and does not amount to a disability under the Equality Act can often be a tricky issue, as equality law continues to develop. The Metroline case centered around whether a type of diabetes that was controlled by diet satisfied the legal definition of ‘disability’. Was it an impairment which had a substantial and long-term effect on the claimant’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities?

Tribunal provides key to Lock
Lock v British Gas

We considered trying a hilarious April Fools gag this year – an announcement that the law on holiday pay was going to be made really simple. We decided against it on the basis that no one would believe for a second that such a thing would happen. Which brings us neatly onto the latest case in the fiendishly complicated world of holiday pay.

The employment tribunal has at long last decided whether or not Mr Lock’s commission payments should form part of his holiday pay. The answer: yes they should.

Deductions and the Minimum Wage
Commissioners for Revenue and Customs v Lorne Stewart

Lorne Stewart required some of its employees to go on courses. If they left the company within two years of the course, the company could deduct the cost from the employees’ pay.

Ms Brade resigned less than two years after completing a course. Lorne Stewart deducted the cost but this took her final salary payment below the level of the National Minimum Wage. HMRC issued a notice of underpayment, and the issue of whether or not the employer was entitled to make the deduction went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

Redundancy near retirement
Sturmey v The Weymouth and Portland Borough Council

Age discrimination legislation has been with us for nearly a decade, but it still gives rise to tricky conceptual issues. Ms Sturmey worked in the Council’s finance team. She was 54. If she had gone on to be dismissed for redundancy when aged 55 or over, she would have been entitled to take an immediate pension.

However, rather than receiving the more traditional over-sized birthday card and whatever size bunch of flowers the office whip-round covered, Ms Sturmey was made redundant as part of a reorganisation, just a few days before her 55th birthday. She claimed unlawful age discrimination based on the timing of her dismissal. The tribunal held that she was not dismissed because of her age. Her job was redundant and she had no reasonable prospect of deployment. Age, therefore, had nothing to do with it.

Disability where multiple reasons for absence
Donelien v Liberata UK

Employers are generally well-advised to question whether long-term or frequent sickness absence is or may be related to disability. That is not always an easy task, particularly where there has been a series of absences for different reasons. It can catch employers out, but the Donelien case should provide a degree of comfort.

Ms Donelien had worked as a court officer for almost 11 years before being dismissed for absence-related issues. Her sickness record had been poor; in her final year she had been absent 20 times, racking up 128 days off work.

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