Photo of Carl De Cicco

On 22 September 2022, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022-2023 was introduced to the House of Commons, and if passed could give rise to the most significant shake up of employment rights since Brexit. 

In summary, the Bill acts to automatically repeal all retained EU law, and remove the principle of the supremacy of EU law, on 31 December 2023 (with the power to extend the revocation date to 23 June 2026) unless specific legislation is introduced to retain it.

What this means for UK employment law is unclear at the moment, but as employment rights relating to the transfer of undertakings (TUPE), annual leave and working time, discrimination and equal pay, and agency, part time and fixed term workers are derived from the EU, the potential for changes in these areas looms large.

We can only speculate at this stage, but there does not seem to be any current indication or suggestion of a radical overhaul of UK employment laws that have their origin in the EU. The UK has a strong track record of high employment standards, on occasion ‘gold-plating’ the minimum criteria required of it by the EU, and although the promised strengthening of rights through the Employment Bill are yet to materialise, the current political landscape is not conducive to a government looking to significantly reduce rights. In addition, trade unions and worker organisations would certainly be likely to vehemently challenge any proposed changes that are to the detriment of workers.

Continue Reading What next for EU derived employment rights in the UK?

As we start the summer holidays, the Supreme Court’s judgment on holiday pay is a timely reminder of the complexities of calculating holiday pay for certain workers.

Holiday pay has been a hot topic in UK employment law over recent years, with the latest Supreme Court decision in Harpur Trust v Brazel addressing the calculation of pay for workers who work irregular hours for part of the year on permanent contracts. Dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court agreed with the earlier decisions that holiday pay should not be pro-rated, but instead calculated by looking at average earnings over the relevant reference period prior to leave being taken, even if it meant that the worker received proportionately more paid holiday than a full time worker.

Continue Reading Holiday Pay: the latest instalment

With train strikes scheduled for next week, and flight cancellations now a regular occurrence, UK workers seem set for a summer of travel disruption. This blog explores the implication for employers, particularly where workers may be stuck abroad, or otherwise unable to get to their place of work.

Flight cancellations

After two years of restricted travel due to the pandemic, summer 2022 finally provides an opportunity for well overdue holidays, yet with scores of flights being cancelled daily, not everyone will get away as planned, or return when they are meant to. Notwithstanding an argument that flight cancellations or being stuck abroad is not an exceptional circumstance in present times, workers will inevitably feel like it is something outside of their control, and employers are generally advised to act pragmatically.

For those stranded abroad after a cancelled flight home, getting back to work may prove problematic (unless they have booked extra annual leave as a contingency). Those who are able to work, albeit abroad due to a cancelled flight, should be paid in the normal way – working remotely is commonplace in a post-pandemic world, and provides a practical short-term solution where the circumstances permit. However, this approach assumes that a worker has the means to continue working. Although some diligent or senior employees may have taken their work phone and laptop with them so that they can work even if they are out of the country, requiring or expecting all workers (to the extent that the option is available) to do so is not particularly conducive or consistent with the idea that annual leave is a period of rest and relaxation. 

Unless a contract or policy states otherwise (which is unlikely), workers stuck abroad who cannot work remotely, or have no means to do so, have no entitlement to be paid for their absence once their annual leave comes to an end. However, assuming employees are making all reasonable efforts to get back to the UK as soon as they can, and being empathetic to the anxiety and administrative burden that workers will be facing in making alternative arrangements, employers could consider treating it in the same way as they would an ‘emergency’ situation, so if this is paid for a set number of days in other circumstances, to do so here too. Alternative possibilities are to require the days to be taken as paid annual leave, or otherwise as authorised unpaid absence. Options should be discussed in conjunction with the affected employee to find a mutually convenient solution depending on their specific circumstances, although employers also need to be mindful of treating workers consistently.

Continue Reading Strikes and cancellations: The impact of travel chaos on employers

The Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament sets out the UK government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead. This year’s speech took place on 10 May, and in addition to the Queen’s absence, there was notable absence of any employment law reform.

In particular, the long-awaited Employment Bill, which was included in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, was not one of the new Bills announced. Its omission was not unexpected, having been excluded from the legislative agenda during 2020 and 2021 too, but it is perhaps now even clearer that employment law is not a priority for the current government.

When first announced, the Employment Bill was expected to contain a plethora of new or enhanced rights including: carer’s leave; neonatal pay and leave; enhanced redundancy protection during pregnancy and maternity; an ability to retain tips; making flexible working the default; and increased contract predictability for workers. It was also expected to legislate to create a new single enforcement body. 

Continue Reading Queen’s Speech 2022: What next for UK Employment Law?

Covid-19 related reluctance or refusal to attend the workplace is nothing new, but as we enter a new phase of the pandemic, ‘Living with Covid’, developing case law will be of interest to employers who require or expect workers to attend the workplace on a full or hybrid basis. This blog considers the current guidance on workplace attendance, the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal’s (EAT) decision in Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting (a case looking at whether an employee had protection against unfair dismissal when refusing to attend work due to Covid related concerns), and some practical considerations for employers.

The UK government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan came to full fruition in England on 1 April 2022, with remaining Covid-specific guidance now largely obsolete, and replaced with general public health guidance. This essentially treats Covid like other respiratory illnesses for individuals and business to manage, leaving employers with discretion on how to manage ongoing Covid risks in the workplace, and individuals encouraged to exercise personal responsibility. 

Employers are no longer required to consider Covid specifically in their risk assessments, nor have specific Covid mitigation measures in place, although they must continue to comply with their general health and safety obligations. Similarly, ‘work from home if you can’ guidance has been removed, although individuals with symptoms of a respiratory infection (including Covid), and who have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to work, or anyone with a positive Covid test, are advised to try and stay at home, working from home if possible, and to avoid others. Individuals who cannot work from home are advised to discuss options with their employer. 

Continue Reading Covid-19 related refusal to attend the workplace

It is hard to avoid the media furore following the events at P&O Ferries last week, where approximately 800 staff were reportedly dismissed for redundancy, without notice and without prior consultation, before being replaced with cheaper staff. Leaving aside the specifics and merits of P&O’s actions (which are complicated by international and seafaring considerations), the

Next up in our Real Time Video Chat series, David Ashmore, Carl De Cicco and Alison Heaton explore the latest trends and issues regarding workplace vaccination policies in the UK. The group discusses the current statutory position on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, sick pay policies affecting the unvaccinated and what the term “fully vaccinated” means

The UK government’s long awaited response to its 2018 consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace has now been published. In this update, we look at the findings made and what may be coming down the line for employers as a result.

  1. Introduction

The 2018 Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) report on sexual harassment in the workplace revealed clearly that it was a persistent and important issue, despite the existence of current legal protections. As a result, the government committed to consult on the issue and have produced an official response to the 2018 report.

The government undertook a consultation from 11 July to 2 October 2019, on sexual harassment in the workplace. This consultation took a two-part form, consisting of: 1) a technical consultation with employers on the functionality of the legal framework designed to prevent sexual harassment, and 2) a public questionnaire aimed at gathering insight into the experiences of individuals.

The consultation was designed to explore:

  1. The evidence for the introduction of a mandatory duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and victimization in the workplace
  2. How best to strengthen and clarify the laws in relation to third-party harassment
  3. Whether interns are adequately protected by the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) and the evidence for extending the protections of the Act to volunteers
  4. The views of stakeholders on extending employment tribunal time limits in the Act from 3 months.


Continue Reading Overview of the governments’ ‘Consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace: government response’

In an eagerly awaited decision, the Supreme Court gave its judgment on the meaning of wording commonly used in non-compete post-termination restrictions and the possibility of severing such wording where it would otherwise render such a restriction unenforceable.

Background

Ms Tillman was the Joint Global Head of Financial Services of executive search and recruitment firm Egon Zehnder at the time she left its employment. Her employment contract included a noncompete post-termination restriction of six months’ duration. This noncompete post-termination restriction provided that Ms Tillman would not “directly or indirectly engage or be concerned or interested in any business carried on in competition with any of the businesses” of Egon Zehnder with which she had been materially concerned in the period of 12 months prior to her employment ending. This restriction became contentious and the subject of substantial litigation when Ms Tillman made known her intention to work for a competitor in apparent breach of the non-compete restriction.

Egon Zehnder brought proceedings to enforce the non-competition covenant and successfully obtained an injunction against Ms Tillman. Ms Tillman appealed this decision, arguing, among other things, that the covenant was void on the basis that it was too widely drafted. In particular, Ms Tillman argued that the use of the words “interested in” prevented her from holding even a minority shareholding in a competitor and the restriction was therefore void as an unenforceable restraint of trade. The Court of Appeal agreed and set aside the injunction. Egon Zehnder then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Continue Reading Positive news for employers wishing to enforce post-termination restrictions

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recently decided that the Working Time Directive (WTD) imposes an obligation on employers in all EU member states to record all working time, not just excess hours or overtime. This marks a significant departure from standard practice and may mean that employers will, in future, be required to implement systems that record workers’ time.

Background

In Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, the ECJ considered the provisions concerning rest periods and the weekly working hours limit under the WTD. In this case, a number of trade unions brought a group action against the employer, seeking to obtain a declaration that the employer was under an obligation to set up a system recording the actual amount of time worked each day. This system should, the claimants argued, make it possible to check that the working times laid down in legislation and collective agreements were properly adhered to. The employer did not have such a system in place, but it did operate a computer application that enabled whole-day absences to be recorded without measuring the duration of time worked by each worker or the number of overtime hours worked.

Article 3 WTD provides for a minimum period of daily rest (11 hours in any 24-hour period) while Article 5 provides for a minimum period of weekly rest (24 hours per period of seven days). The WTD also contains an upper limit of 48 hours for the average working time for each seven-day period, although UK employees can opt-out of this limit by written agreement.

The ECJ was asked to consider whether national Spanish law (which did not require every hour to be recorded) was sufficient to ensure the effectiveness of the working time limits laid out in the WTD, and if not, whether employers should be required to establish systems whereby the actual daily working time worked by full time employees is recorded.

Continue Reading Recording working time: do changes lie ahead?