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Speedread

From 1 October 2022, the requirement for employers to physically check their new hires’ right to work (RTW) documents will return unless they opt to use one of the new government ‘Identification Document Validation Providers’ (IDSP) to validate RTW evidence online.

Background

Prior to the pandemic, all RTW checks had to be carried out face-to-face.

As a temporary measure brought in during the pandemic, the Home Office allowed employers to carry out RTW checks over video call and to accept scanned documentation (as opposed to having face-to-face checks and then copying and retaining original documents, as was the pre-pandemic requirement). This temporary measure will end on 30 September 2022. 

Reminder of requirements

All UK employers must carry out certain RTW checks for new recruits (regardless of nationality) and also use reasonable steps to ensure their current employees have and maintain a RTW in the UK. While there is no standalone liability for employers who fail to correctly carry out RTW checks, failing to do so exposes employers to fines of up to £20,000 per breach in the event that they employ someone illegally (plus criminal liability, disqualification of directors, reputational damage, among other risks). Compliant RTW checks secure a statutory excuse to civil liability for the hiring of illegal workers.

Continue Reading UK employers, are you ready for October? Change in Right to Work Check Requirements

The recent case of Dafiaghor-Olomu v Community Integrated Care [2022] EAT 84 is a good demonstration of the rough justice that is occasionally dispensed by the Employment Tribunal system.

It is well known that the amount of compensation that an employer can be ordered to pay for a straightforward unfair dismissal claim is subject to a statutory maximum amount of 52 weeks’ pay (commonly referred to as the “statutory cap”).  In Dafiaghor-Olomu v Community Integrated Care, Mrs Dafiaghor-Olomu won her unfair dismissal claim against her employer. At the remedies hearing, the tribunal awarded her £46,153.55 in compensation and the employer paid this amount in full. The claimant successfully appealed the outcome of the remedies hearing and her award was subsequently increased to £128,961.59 following a second remedies hearing. The claimant appealed again to the EAT in respect of the remedy.

The key question for the EAT to determine was how the statutory cap should be applied in this unusual scenario in light of the earlier payment of £46,153.55. In particular, the EAT had to decide whether:

  1. The employer should be given credit for the earlier payment of £46,153.55 before the statutory cap was applied leaving the employer with an outstanding balance to pay of £74,200 (the statutory cap at the time of dismissal); or
  2. The statutory cap should be applied to the total award first, and then the employer given credit for the earlier payment of £46,153.55, leaving the employer with an outstanding balance to pay of £28,046.45.


Continue Reading Unfair Dismissal Compensatory Awards – The Cost of Compliance

The outcome of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions v Sommer [2022] EAT 78, (which we reported in this month’s newsletter) provides an interesting illustration of the scope of the ‘without prejudice’ privilege rules in the context of settling an employment tribunal claim.

The ‘without prejudice’ rule (the “Rule”) allows parties to have a full and frank exchange of views about a dispute or litigation, and even to make concessions about weaknesses in their own case, when discussing settlement. The parties can do this safe in the knowledge that anything said or done will be “without prejudice” and therefore cannot be relied on and would not be disclosable if settlement is not achieved and the matter goes to court/tribunal. The courts recognise that without prejudice privilege is important for the efficient operation of the legal system, as it facilitates parties to resolving disputes outside of court/tribunal.

There are only a small number of narrow exceptions to this Rule and the Sommer case is a good illustration of that. One exception is that the Rule cannot be abused or weaponised as a disguise or excuse for “perjury, blackmail or other unambiguous impropriety”. Case law has established that this ‘unambiguous impropriety’ exception should be construed narrowly – it should only be applied in the clearest cases of abuse. In 2021 the Court of Appeal ruled it would only be lost in “truly exceptional” circumstances.

Continue Reading Sailing close to the wind: ‘without prejudice’ and the thresholds of ‘unambiguous impropriety’

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?

Despite resolving to close an exploited loophole on ferry worker pay, the government has stopped short of an amendment to UK national minimum wage legislation.

In October 2020, legislative changes extended the minimum wage to most seafarers working on ships in UK waters, regardless of where a ship was registered, but those working on ferries (other than between UK ports) were not included, leaving scope for operators to hire crew on international routes on hourly rates below the UK minimums. In the absence of reasonable minimum wages, ferry operators can gain a competitive advantage by driving down wage levels.

Recent events have drawn attention to this practice, and in an announcement this week, the Transport Secretary set out the government’s plan to address some of the pay issues in response to this.

While recognising that a minimum floor is needed to prevent the competitive driving down of wages, and to ensure appropriate and fair levels of pay for ferry workers, the reality of pay arrangements across international borders is not straightforward.
Continue Reading Ferry workers’ pay is still at sea

The practice of ‘fire and rehire’ (i.e. dismissal of an employee and offering re-engagement on new, usually lesser, terms) as a way to facilitate a change to terms and conditions of employment has been under the spotlight in recent years. It is not a new strategy as a way of making changes to employment contracts, nor is it unlawful if handled properly, but the tactic has been subject to increased scrutiny in recent years as cases of misuse by some employers have hit the headlines.

In autumn 2021, legislation curbing dismissal and re-engagement was shelved by the government and replaced with a commitment for updated and more detailed Acas guidance. That guidance (which is not binding) focusses on the importance of thorough and constructive consultation with staff to explore all alternative options to terminating employment, describing fire and rehire as ‘a last resort’.

Fast forward a few months, and the government has announced that we can now also expect a new Statutory Code of Practice on fire and rehire intended to crackdown on the inappropriate use of the tactic, with increased punitive financial sanctions for non-compliance.

As always, the devil will be in the detail. The new Code is expected to set out the consultation process to be followed where there are proposed changes to terms and conditions, and to give practical steps for employers to follow. It is also expected that an additional 25% penalty (on top of the existing punitive sanctions) will be levied where an employer deploys fire and rehire tactics without first having made reasonable efforts to reach agreement through consultation, or where there is otherwise unreasonable non-compliance with the Code.
Continue Reading Fire & rehire clampdown: will a new Statutory Code of Practice help?

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

Whether employers can require evidence of vaccination as a condition of employment or attendance in the workplace has been a hot topic in recent months, with many employers (having weighed up various legal obligations and risks) introducing a policy featuring vaccination status to some extent. Yet vaccination status is not stable and the dilemma now facing these employers in the UK is whether to revisit their policy requirements due to the rollout of booster jabs. Put simply, should employers with a vaccine policy now require vaccinated individuals to have the booster?

Full vaccination is currently seen as having completed the full course of an approved vaccine (i.e., being ‘double jabbed’, unless in receipt of an approved one-dose vaccine). At the moment there is no mention of the booster on the NHS Covid pass, receipt of the booster is not a pre-requisite for activities such as travel or attendance at venues, nor is it a requirement of deployment for care home staff (where there is a legal requirement for full vaccination, unless exempt, in England). On this basis, employers may be minded to maintain the same stance and ignore the boosters for any workplace policies too.

It will certainly be appealing to employers to maintain the status quo from a practical perspective. The administration of assessing whether staff eligible for a booster have had it is likely to be a particular challenge, both keeping track of who is eligible when (as although all UK adults have been offered the full course of an approved vaccine, the booster is only currently available to vulnerable groups and to those aged over 40, six months after their final jab), and what ‘evidence’ an individual has of a booster (as until this appears on the NHS Covid pass the individual will have little by way of proof that they have received it). Further, employers are likely to want to avoid having to update and communicate a change in policy so soon after introducing it, and dealing with any engagement issues or disputes arising from a change in approach.
Continue Reading What does the booster jab mean for vaccine policies in the UK?

Despite menopause being a natural part of the ageing process, there is a general lack of awareness of its symptoms and effects, often resulting in menopausal women* experiencing a lack of support, as well as discrimination and harassment. This blog looks at the legal issues, and what employers can and ought to be doing to create a supportive and empathetic workplace culture.

Some of these issues were highlighted in a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision, Rooney v. Leicester City Council, which was handed down shortly ahead of World Menopause Day on 18 October 2021. This case acts as a timely reminder of the challenges that menopausal women face in the workplace and the fact that more can be done to raise and demonstrate understanding and awareness of what remains a taboo subject.

Mrs Rooney was a childcare social worker for Leicester City Council until she resigned from her post. She brought a number of claims against her employer, including a claim for disability discrimination, relying on menopause as her disability. She cited symptoms including insomnia, fatigue, light-headedness, confusion, stress, depression, anxiety, palpitations, memory loss, joint pain, migraines and hot flushes that left her physically and mentally unable to cope over a couple of years, and having to spend prolonged periods in bed. She received hormone replacement therapy and was under the care of a specialist menopause clinic.
Continue Reading Menopause in the workplace