Pregnant Worker Awarded £30,000 By Employment Tribunal

Marketing Director, Mrs Shipp, was awarded £30,000 by The London Central Employment Tribunal for injury to feeling due to maternity and sex discrimination.

Whilst she was pregnant, Mrs Shipp was asked whether her baby was planned and how she thought her pregnancy would affect her career prospects. In addition to this, male colleagues also suggested putting bets on how much weight she would gain whilst she was pregnant.

Mrs Shipp raised the matter with senior bosses before going on maternity leave in June 2019 and she expressed how she was upset and frustrated with the comments.

During Mrs Shipp’s maternity leave, the company decided to restructure. They made redundancies and other colleagues resigned, however, the company did not inform Mrs Shipp of these changes and they overlooked the fact that she was on maternity leave.

Mrs Shipp was later told that she was being laid off via email and although she raised a grievance in December 2019, it was dismissed.

In September 2020, Mrs Shipp was then sacked after refusing to do the same Marketing Director job under a lesser title and for a considerably lower salary. It was later revealed that male co-workers changed job roles but did not receive a pay cut in the same way Mrs Shipp did.

The Employment Judge found that the unwanted comments Mrs Shipp experienced during her pregnancy generated an atmosphere that was humiliating and degrading for her. The Judge also concluded that she was subjected to a serious case of maternity discrimination before awarding her £30,000.

What can employees learn from this case?

It goes without saying that finding out you have lost your job whilst you are on maternity leave is incredibly distressing and thankfully, The Equality Act 2010 (The EA) provides protection to employees in Mrs Shipps’ situation and this is why she went on to win her discrimination claim.

Gender, pregnancy and maternity are all ‘Protected Characteristics’ under The EA and if you suffer any unfavourable treatment due to these characteristics then you may be able to take a claim to the Employment Tribunal. The EA recognises different forms of discrimination at work too, including; direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and it protects against a huge range of different types of discriminatory behaviour.

All employees should be aware that whilst they are on maternity leave, they are still protected by The EA and this act covers every section of UK employment. So, if you were to experience any unfavourable treatment whilst you are on maternity leave, this is unlawful and you can still make a claim against your employer. It is worth noting that Employment Law provides you with protection from the moment that you become pregnant until the end of your maternity leave.

Both sex discrimination and maternity discrimination are not something that should be overlooked and the case above is proof that you can win discrimination claims of this kind when you go to the Employment Tribunal. So, if you have been treated unfairly or in a manner that has caused emotional or physical suffering whilst you are pregnant or on maternity leave then it is beneficial to turn to an employment law specialist for some tailored advice.

Speaking to a specialist about sex discrimination claims

Should you wish to speak to an expert about the acts of discrimination you have experienced in the workplace and to find out more about making a claim to the Employment Tribunal, do not hesitate to contact Damian McCarthy today. It is important to be aware that most discrimination claims need to be made within three months less one day from the date that the discrimination occurred, so do not put off reaching out for assistance in this regard.

Damian is an employment law specialist with extensive experience and he will gladly provide you with any legal advice that you require relating to sex discrimination claims. He is particularly popular amongst clients who require assistance with complex claims of discrimination and dismissal, and he is passionate about ensuring that his clients’ interests are protected throughout all legal proceedings. You can trust that Damian will do all he can to turn your case into a winning one and help you to get the justice you deserve. So, be sure to get in touch with him as soon as possible.

What All Employees Should Know About Workplace Harassment

Harassment at work is undeniably a huge problem and unfortunately, a high percentage of employees have experienced some type of harassment in the workplace. It goes without saying that harassment is demeaning and unacceptable, and no one should have to experience unwanted behaviour or comments that create an environment of humiliation, hostility, offensiveness, degradation or intimidation in the workplace.

Thankfully, The Equality Act 2010 (EA) protects against harassment and employees in every section of UK employment are entitled to take action if they have been subjected to harassment at work. It is important that all employees are aware of this and that they know the basics surrounding workplace harassment. So, below we have put together an easy to understand guide covering everything that employees should know in this regard.

What harassment does The EA protect against?

The EA consolidates all previous equality legislation and it protects against harassment as a result of:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Religion and belief

These are all referred to as ‘protected characteristics’ and if you are treated in a manner that causes you emotional or physical suffering due to these characteristics, you will be protected by this key piece of legislation. Also, if you are harassed because you are linked to someone with a protected characteristic, then you are still protected by The EA.

How can harassment happen?

Contrary to popular belief, harassment does not just happen face-to-face. In the workplace, harassment can also happen by letter, email or phone and no matter how the harassment happens, employees are still protected. It is worth noting that harassment can include a one off incident and also repeated behaviour or comments.

What does ‘harassment’ usually look like?

Harassment in the workplace can take many forms and there are various different situations in which this behaviour can occur. Some common examples of harassment include;

  • Practical jokes or teasing
  • Humiliating or making fun
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Verbal abuse or offencive comments
  • Threatening or abusive behaviour

This type of behaviour can be carried out by colleagues of the same level, seniors and also employers. You may find that even if your employer is not the harassor, they can still be vicariously liable for the harassment too and this enables you to make a claim against them to the Employment Tribunal.

What should you do if you experience workplace harassment?

When you are subjected to harassment in your workplace, it is always beneficial to try and resolve the problem by talking to your employer or a senior employee. You also have the option to raise a formal grievance if you would feel more comfortable doing this. You can always seek legal advice from an employment law specialist if required as well.

How long do you have to make a harassment claim?

When the workplace harassment you are experiencing falls into one of the EA categories and you are wanting to take a claim to the Employment Tribunal against your employer, there are strict time frames to be aware of. The claim must be made within three months from the date that the harassment happened.

How do you win a harassment claim?

When making a harassment claim, the behaviour that you have experienced needs to be unwanted and this is called ‘unwanted conduct’ in The EA. In order to be awarded compensation by the Employment Tribunal, you need to show that the harassor’s behaviour or comments violated your dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Even if the person who harassed you did not mean to make you feel a certain way, as long as it was reasonable that you did feel this way, you may still win your claim.

Speaking to a specialist about harassment at work

Hopefully, you will now know the basics about workplace harassment and the information above will be particularly beneficial to you if you or someone you know is being subjected to unwanted behaviour or comments at work. Should you wish to speak to an employment law specialist about your experience of workplace harassment to get some tailored advice, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Nationwide Employment Lawyers.

Our expert team will gladly provide you with the legal advice that you require and we can even assist you with making a harassment claim against your employer if this is something that you would like to do. We know how stressful it can be dealing with an employment law issue, so let us help you by shouldering the burden and guiding you through the process. No matter what your individual circumstances may be, we can assure you that you will be in the best hands when you turn to us for legal advice and assistance.

Looking Into An Employer’s Duty To Prevent Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Unfortunately, discriminatory behaviour comes in many forms and it can cause harm to employees through many means. An incredibly common cause of workplace discrimination is harassment and whilst there are several types of workplace harassment, sexual harassment has been a huge problem for many years now. Thankfully, the UK Government is intending to do more to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Simply put, harassment is behaviour towards an individual that causes them to feel victimised and instances of sexual harassment in the workplace include; the unnecessary touching of a person, making jokes of a sexual nature and the use of sexually suggestive materials. An incredibly common form of sexual harassment involves employers making sexual advances towards employees in return for career benefits too.

The recent announcement from the Government has given many employees hope that more will soon be done to significantly reduce the amount of sexual harassment in the workplace and below we have looked into the new ‘duty’ that will be placed upon employers in this regard.

What was the Government’s announcement?

The UK Government announced that it intends to introduce a new duty requiring employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Whilst it is not yet clear exactly what this new duty will entail, employers will have to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent harassment and make the workplace safer for everyone, and they could find themselves liable if they do not do so.

In addition to this, the Government will introduce explicit protections from third-party harassment and also look closely at extending the time limit for bringing Equality Act 2010 based cases to the employment tribunal from 3 months to 6 months.

These proposals are in response to the Government’s 2019 consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace which ran from the 11th July to the 2nd October 2019. At this moment in time, there is not any indication as to when legislative changes will be introduced, but the Government has said that it will be as soon as parliamentary time allows.

What are employers’ current requirements relating to sexual harassment?

Currently, under equality law, employers must take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of employees by their colleagues. This means that although anyone who sexually harasses someone at work is responsible for their own actions, employers can also be held responsible too. ‘Vicarious liability’ means that employers can be liable for the legal wrongs committed by an employee in the course of their employment.

In an attempt to ensure that they will not be liable should a sexual harassment claim be taken to the Employment Tribunal, many employers will have policies and procedures in place, and also provide staff training surrounding sexual harassment.

What protection do employees currently have against sexual harassment?

It is essential that all employees are aware that The Equality Act 2010 already protects them against sexual harassment in the workplace. This piece of legislation provides protection for every section of UK employment and should you be subjected to sexual harassment, you can make a claim to the Employment Tribunal. This claim can be brought against both the harasser and also your employers on the basis that they are vicariously liable for the harassment.

Learning more about protections surrounding sexual harassment

All in all, many are hopefully that the various proposals made by the Government will have a positive impact and help to significantly reduce the number of employees who experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Should you have any questions at all regarding discrimination and harassment or require any tailored legal advice in relation to your individual experience of sexual harassment, please do not hestistate to contact Damian McCarthy.

As an employment law specialist in Central London, Damian has the knowledge and experience required to discuss workplace sexual harassment with you in much more detail. He will be able to provide you with any additional information that you require about The Equality Act 2010 and how it protects you from harassment whilst at work. If you are interested in making a claim against your employer, Damian can assist you in doing so too and he has a wide range of experience helping clients with employment law issues, so you can trust that you will be in the best hands when you turn to him for assistance.

Employee Awarded £42,000 For Unfair Dismissal After Being Made Redundant In Car Park

George Dolby, a former business manager at Stuart Plant Ltd, was made redundant moments after he was asked what he thought of his company car. Upon meeting his managing director, Stuart Sayer, for what was described as a ‘catch up’ at a Holiday Inn, Mr Dolby was walking through a car park when Mr Sayer told him that he was being made redundant.

After being told about the redundancy out of the blue, Mr Dolby later received a letter stating that he was being made redundant and that he would receive £8,000 severance pay. It also stated that his company car would be collected in a week’s time.

This then prompted Mr Dolby to send two letters to his boss. One letter requested the £15,000 bonus that he had received the previous two years and another letter challenging the legalities of the decision to make him redundant. He did not receive any reply to either of these letters. Mr Sayer told the Employment Tribunal that he tried to offer Mr Dolby a vacant account manager position, but Mr Dolby denied that he was ever offered this role.

Mr Dolby, who was 71 at the time, worked briefly at M&S before going on to be a fruit packer at World Wide Fruit and he had to sell his family home as a result of the redundancy. Mr Dolby is now retired.

The Judge ruled that the brief conversation in which Mr Sayer told Mr Dolby that he was being made redundant was not a meeting and the dismissal was plainly unfair. The way in which Mr Dolby’s employment was terminated was deemed to be in a ‘brutal manner’ and he was awarded £42,000 as compensation for unfair dismissal.

What employees can learn from this case

Many employees do not realise that fairness is a key component in an employee being dismissed properly and there are several rules that an employer must adhere to. It is essential that an employer has a fair reason for the dismissal, that the proper dismissal procedures are followed and the dismissal was fair in all circumstances. When this is not the case, an employee may be able to claim unfair dismissal.

Even in the case of redundancy, the dismissal still needs to be fair and the employer must follow the proper redundancy procedures, choose employees for redundancy in a fair and objective way, and properly warn and consult about the redundancy. The case above was a clear example of how redundancy can be unfair and due to the fact that there was no warning or consultation, the proper redundancy procedures simply were not followed.

It is important that employees are aware of what is required of their employers in order for any type of dismissal to be fair and this will enable them to seek legal advice and make an unfair dismissal claim if they have not been dismissed properly. Being able to claim compensation on the grounds of unfair dismissal can be incredibly beneficial for employees at this financially difficult time, so it is always undeniably worthwhile checking that a dismissal was fair.

Unlike other areas of employment law that can be really complex, when it comes to dismissals, the law is fairly straightforward. However, if you are ever unsure about the way that a dismissal was handled, even if this was a redundancy, you should speak to an employment law specialist who will be able to advise you further as to whether your dismissal is ‘fair’ in the eyes of the law.

Getting tailored unfair dismissal legal advice

Should you have any questions about unfair dismissal, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Nationwide Employment Lawyers. Our experienced team will gladly provide you with any additional information that you may require in this regard. If you have just been dismissed, they can also provide you with tailored employment law advice as well. Following this unfair dismissal legal advice, if you would like to make a claim to the Employment Tribunal, we can support you from start to finish with doing so.

Our talented employment law specialists have a superb record in representing our clients and you will be in the best hands when you enlist their help. We pride ourselves on fighting hard for our clients and getting them the results they deserve, so if your dismissal was automatically unfair, we will do all we can to get you reasonable compensation. We provide an extremely high standard of service and we can assure you that you will not be disappointed when you turn to us for unfair dismissal legal advice.

Vento Scales Updated

On element of compensation that can be awarded by an Employment Tribunals for unlawful discrimination (such as sex discrimination, race discrimination and disability discrimination) are awards for ‘injury to feelings’. 

In Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police [2003] IRLR 102 the Court of Appeal set out guidelines for the award of compensation for injury to feelings. The court roughly categorised three bands – lower, middle and top.

The Presidents of Employment Tribunals for England and Wales and Scotland have increased amounts in the Vento bands from 6 April 2020 as follows:

Lower band (for the least serious cases, e.g. one isolated incident of discrimination) : £900 – £9,000.

Middle band (which is used for serious cases but not in the highest band) : £9,000 – £27,000.

Top band (for the most serious cases, such as a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment) : £27,000 – £45,000, with the possibility of a higher award in the most serious cases.

This article can also be found here: Nathiowide Employment Lawyers.

Extended Criminal Record Certificates – A Balance Must Be Struck

Those who work with children or vulnerable adults are required to have extended criminal record certificates (ECRCs) so that prospective employers can judge whether they are fit to perform such sensitive roles. However, as one Court of Appeal case showed, a careful balance has to be struck between disclosure of information and the serious blight that might cause to an individual’s career.

The case concerned a teacher who vehemently denied claims that he had made sexually inappropriate comments to students, aged between 17 and 24, during a college trip abroad. His local police force decided, however, that it was necessary to include those allegations on his ECRC. That made it very unlikely that he would be able to find employment in his chosen field, but his judicial review challenge to the decision was dismissed by the High Court.

In upholding his appeal against that ruling, the Court of Appeal found that the police decision was unbalanced and disproportionate. The man’s ECRC made no mention of the fact that the Independent Safeguarding Authority had approved him as fit to continue teaching children. It was clear that the police had failed to take account of a relevant factor when reaching the decision. The ECRC was quashed.

If you need any help contact us today on 020 8263 6080 or click here for a free initial consultation.

The Firm’s Annual Christmas Party

The annual Christmas party gives employers the opportunity to thank members of staff for their contribution over the past year and is a chance for everyone to relax and enjoy the holiday season. However, it is easy to forget that an employer owes its employees certain obligations, even outside work, when the event has been organised by the employer, and that employees’ conduct during it should comply with normal standards and should not breach workplace equal treatment and anti-harassment policies. An employer may be held vicariously liable for the actions of employees at such functions as they are likely to be considered as having occurred ‘in the course of employment’.

In order to prevent what should be a happy occasion from leading to recriminations or worse, an employer should take certain basic steps. Here are some of the more important ones:

  • When planning any work event, thought should be given to whether it will coincide with the dates of religious festivals;
  • Carry out a risk assessment – this should include the venue and, in particular, the possible risks associated with serving alcohol. Making sure employees can get home safely is important, so consider hiring transport or providing taxis if necessary. Ensure soft drinks are provided as an alternative to alcoholic drinks and that individual dietary requirements are catered for;
  • Ensure that, if employees’ partners are invited, there is no discrimination with regard to who is included. Ensure also that reasonable adjustments are made to allow any disabled employee or partner to attend and that any employees absent on maternity leave or because of long-term sickness are included;
  • Where possible, make sure that the arrangements accommodate the requirements of employees of different religions;
  • Ensure that employees understand the difference between ‘banter’ and behaviour that could be considered to infringe the dignity of any person present…and if such behaviour occurs, act quickly to prevent a reoccurrence. Take prompt action if a complaint is received;
  • Make sure that employees who are expected to attend work the day after the function understand that absence through over-indulgence is likely to be regarded as a disciplinary rather than a medical matter; and
  • Make sure employees are aware that any illegal acts will not be tolerated.

The biggest problems that are likely to arise are that inappropriate behaviour may occur, especially if alcohol flows too freely, and that there may be conduct which members of a particular religious persuasion find objectionable.

Your firm’s contract of employment will probably deal with most or all of these issues. However, it is sensible to have a separate policy on what is expected of employees at workplace social events and to remind employees of its contents in advance of any function.

In one vicarious liability case, a claim was brought by an employee who was punched in the face by a colleague and suffered serious brain injury some time after a group of employees had left the firm’s Christmas party and adjourned to a nearby hotel. The High Court ruled that the employer could not be held liable for serious injuries inflicted by one member of staff on another some hours after the planned Christmas event had finished. This makes clear the wisdom of organising an event with an obvious finishing time, such as a meal at a restaurant, so that those who wish to continue to celebrate afterwards do so at a venue of their choice.

If you need any help contact us today on 020 8263 6080 or click here for a free initial consultation.

Discrimination – Identifying the Right Comparator Can be Problematic

The usual way of detecting discrimination is to conduct a comparison between the treatment of complainants and colleagues in a similar position. However, as one Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision illustrated, identifying an appropriate comparator is frequently problematic.

The case concerned a doctor who claimed that her employer’s two-thirds final salary pension scheme unlawfully discriminated against those who had worked both full time and part time during their careers. She had retired after working for 27 years for the same employer and was awarded about 78 per cent of a full pension. That was on the basis that, when periods of part-time work were taken into account, she had completed the equivalent of 21 years’ full-time service.

In complaining to an Employment Tribunal (ET), she argued that a full-time worker who had worked for 20 years or more would have qualified for a full pension. It was submitted that the scheme was infected by double pro-rating in the case of those with some part-time service and that she had been put at a particular disadvantage.

Her claim was, however, dismissed on the basis that making use of her suggested full-time comparator would have failed to take account of a critical feature of the scheme – that benefit accrual rates under it depended on the employee’s age on joining the employer and the years remaining until normal pension age.

In rejecting her challenge to that decision, the EAT could detect no error of law in the ET’s decision on the comparator issue. It was unfortunate that the ET had cut and pasted the majority of its decision, on an almost word-for-word basis, from the employer’s written arguments. However, its reasoning was sufficient to enable her to understand its conclusion that she was not being paid less by way of pension entitlement than a comparable full-time worker.

If you need any help contact us today on 020 8263 6080 or click here for a free initial consultation.

Restaurant Owner Pays with His Liberty for Peanut Allergy Sufferer’s Death

Disregarding health and safety rules can put your liberty, as well as the welfare of your staff and customers, in jeopardy. The owner of a restaurant that served a peanut allergy sufferer with a fatal dish found that out to his cost.

The customer had an allergy so severe that it could be triggered by mere proximity to peanuts. He took no chances and, before ordering a takeaway curry from the restaurant, sought and received confirmation that the dish contained no nuts. After eating it, however, he went into severe anaphylactic shock and died.

It later emerged that the restaurant was in serious financial difficulties and that cheap ingredients, which included peanuts, had been used in preparing the dish. Staff had been warned by a trading standards officer just a week before the fatal incident that customers must be told that their meals contained nuts. The owner was subsequently prosecuted and jailed for six years after being found guilty of manslaughter and six breaches of food safety standards.

The facts of the case emerged as the Court of Appeal found that the evidence against the owner was overwhelming and rejected his challenge to the manslaughter conviction. Despite his previous good character, the Court was also wholly unpersuaded that his jail term was excessive. The customer had died due to gross negligence, driven by money, that had persisted for months.

If you need any help contact us today on 020 8263 6080 or click here for a free initial consultation.

Restrictive Covenant in Engineer’s Contract Passes Reasonableness Test

Restrictive covenants in employment contracts involve the imposition of restraints on employees’ personal freedom and have to be reasonable to be enforceable. In one case, the High Court ruled that a clause in an engineer’s contract that prevented him from working for competitors for 12 months passed that test.

The engineer worked for a company that specialised in making high-tech consumer goods and was obsessed by maintaining the confidentiality of its research. He was put to work on a secret project to develop a new electric car shortly after he had received a conditional offer of employment from an electric car manufacturer. He did not inform his employer of that development.

His employment contract contained a restrictive covenant that, amongst other things, forbade him from working for any company that operated in a similar field to his employer for a 12-month period after leaving his job. After the car manufacturer’s offer was made final and the engineer announced his resignation, his employer launched proceedings to hold him to the terms of the covenant.

He argued that the covenant, which had a worldwide reach, was void in that it placed excessive restraints on his freedom to make a living. However, the Court found that the restrictions were no wider than was reasonably necessary to protect the employer’s commercial interest in preserving its trade secrets.

The Court acknowledged that the engineer and the car manufacturer had acted in good faith and that there was no reason to suspect that the engineer intended to divulge his employer’s confidential information to the car manufacturer. However, the purpose of the covenant was not merely to restrain deliberate disclosure of confidential information and there was a real risk of innocent breach.

Whilst expressing sympathy for the engineer, the Court noted that he was largely the author of his own misfortune in unwisely failing to tell his employer of the conditional offer he had received before embarking on the secret project. The Court issued an injunction restraining him from taking up his new post for 12 months from the date on which he left his job.

If you need any help contact us today on 020 8263 6080 or click here for a free initial consultation.