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Wednesday 19 March 2014

Employment Law Bulletin March 2014

Welcome

Last month, Vince Cable ‘named and shamed’ employers who pay less than minimum wage. Except he didn’t, really. He named just five employers – three of whom had underpaid less than £1,000 to only one worker, and the other two had underpaid just a few thousand pounds. None of the big companies who, according to the TUC, are depriving hundreds of workers of the minimum wage, were identified.

But even paying the minimum wage is seen in some quarters as not being enough. According to a report by the Living Wage Commission, 21% of workers in the UK earn less than a Living Wage, which they define as the amount people need “to enjoy a basic, but socially acceptable standard of living”.

The Commission is encouraging employers to pay the Living Wage if they can – the current hourly rate is £7.65/hour or £8.80/hour for London. This compares to the minimum wage, which is expected to increase to £6.50/hour for over-21s from October 2014 (it is currently £6.31/hour).

Intermediaries and false self-employment

When it comes to employment law, a common warning is that if you create a false picture to avoid duties and liabilities, you’ll be found out, eventually.

But even the innocent could get penalised by the government’s clamp down on employment status. Consultation has just finished, and a report is expected soon on proposals to catch organisations which are engaging employees or workers, and claiming that they’re self-employed.

Employer’s decision to dismiss

Kisoka v Ratnpinyotip

It can be a good idea for employers to engage an independent panel of people in some part of the disciplinary process. This often happens when an employer does not have enough officers in-house to cover the various elements (it’s best that different people conduct the disciplinary hearing and appeal, for example). It can also happen where an employer wants to ensure, and be seen to ensure, impartiality and fairness.

The Woolies sweater

The ‘Woolworths case’ is keeping us all waiting (some on the edge of our seats) as it trickles through the court process. It’s made its way to Luxembourg; the Court of Appeal has referred to the European Court of Justice the question of whether the words “in one establishment” should be disregarded from collective redundancy legislation.

 

Fees are here to stay (for now)

A court action which could have led to the abolition of employment tribunal fees regime has been thrown out. The Administrative Court has dismissed Unison’s application for judicial review of the decision to introduce fees.

Dismissals without notice

Robert Bates Wrekin Landscapes v Knight

Most employment contracts contain a summary dismissal clause. This entitles employers to end the employment straightaway (summarily) if the employee commits a serious breach.

 

Liability for employee’s assault of customer

Mohamud v Morrison Supermarkets

Employers are responsible for their employees’ actions in the course of their employment. It’s called vicarious liability. But it has limits; sometimes employees stray beyond their remit, or otherwise act in ways that cannot be said to be endorsed by their employer. In those situations, vicarious liability will not apply.

And finally…..

 Smells like team spirit?

 

A court in America has reportedly decided that ‘sexual sniffing’ could amount to harassment.

The claimant complained that two male colleagues had repeatedly hovered over her desk and (among other things) sniffed her. If that wasn’t strange enough, the manager is alleged to have told her to “let it ride”, explaining “you know what men are like when they get out of prison”.

Let’s hope the miscreants were scent for appropriate training…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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