Tag Archive for: employment law

Disability Discrimination and Making Reasonable Adjustments in the Workplace

Navigating the complexities of the workplace can be challenging, especially for individuals with disabilities. Understanding the concept of disability discrimination at work and the importance of reasonable adjustments is crucial for both employers and employees. 

When living with a disability, being aware of your rights and the responsibilities of your employer can help to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities in the workplace. Many do not realise that in addition to direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation, not making reasonable adjustments in the workplace is a form of discrimination. In this post, we have explored what “reasonable adjustments” means and the legal protection available to disabled employees being treated unfairly at work. 

Understanding Disability Discrimination at Work

Disability discrimination occurs when an individual with a physical or mental impairment is treated less favourably than others because of their disability. This can manifest in various ways, such as refusal to employ a disabled person or lack of proper accommodation for an employee’s specific needs. Discrimination can also be subtle, such as not considering an employee for a project or promotion due to assumptions about their capabilities. 

Recognising and addressing disability discrimination is not only a legal obligation but also a step towards creating a more inclusive workplace. It is essential for employers to be proactive in identifying and preventing discriminatory practices, and for employees to be aware of their legal rights under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA).

The Legal Framework

In the UK, the EqA provides a clear legal framework to protect individuals from discrimination in the workplace. This Act covers a range of protected characteristics, including disability. It requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities to ensure they are not at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled employees. 

The Act covers a range of disabilities, including physical and mental impairments, and the definition of ‘disability’ under the Equality Act 2010 is relatively wide, yet the impairment must have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on an employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The protection provided applies to all aspects of employment too, from recruitment to training and career development.

What Are Reasonable Adjustments?

Reasonable adjustments are changes made to the work environment or the way things are done to remove or minimise the disadvantage for individuals with disabilities that is created by policies. These adjustments aim to provide equal opportunities for everyone in the workplace. Some common examples include flexible working hours, special equipment or modifying day-to-day duties. The goal is to remove any barriers that hinder an individual’s ability to work as effectively and comfortably as non-disabled employees. 

Identifying the Need for Adjustments

The first step in an employer making reasonable adjustments is to identify the needs of the employee with a disability. This often involves a conversation between the employer and the employee to understand the specific challenges and potential solutions. In some cases, professional assessments by occupational health may be necessary. It is also important for employers to create an environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities and discussing their needs without fear of stigma or repercussions.

Implementing Adjustments

Once the needs are identified, employers should take appropriate steps to implement the adjustments. The nature of these adjustments will vary depending on the individual’s disability and the specific job role. What is considered “reasonable” in the eyes of the law will also differ depending on factors such as the size of the organisation and the cost of the adjustments. 

Employers need to approach this process with an open mind. They should also follow up with the employee to ensure the adjustments are effective and make further modifications if necessary. Employers must remember that a one-size-fits-all approach is often ineffective and they should be as flexible as possible to support employees. 

Seeking Professional Advice

Navigating the complexities of disability discrimination and the process of requesting adjustments in the workplace can be daunting for employees. If you find yourself in this situation, seeking advice from legal professionals who specialise in employment law is beneficial. These experts can provide you with information about your rights, your employer’s obligations and the most effective approach to address your needs. They can also assist you in case of any disputes or misunderstandings. If required, they can support you during Employment Tribunal proceedings for disability discrimination compensation. 

Overcoming Challenges 

As an employee, requesting reasonable adjustments for your disability may present various challenges. You might encounter resistance or a lack of understanding from your employer or colleagues. Financial and logistical considerations might also be raised as concerns by your employer. To overcome these challenges, you should try to be flexible to help you find mutually beneficial solutions and discuss alternative adjustments if your initial request is not feasible. Remember, the goal is to find a balance that allows you to perform your job effectively while respecting your rights and needs. 

Speak to an Expert About Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination at work is an issue that requires action. Employers are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to support employees with disabilities, fostering an inclusive work environment. Understanding and implementing adjustments not only supports the day-to-day work life of employees but also contributes to a diverse and productive workforce. Whether you have a physical or mental disability, speaking to your employer and asking for adjustments can significantly impact your ability to carry out your job role to the best of your ability. 

If you are experiencing discrimination arising from disability, whether your employer treats you less favourably or they have refused to make reasonable adjustments for you, do not hesitate to contact Damian McCarthy. With more than two decades of experience, Damian has represented clients at the highest levels and has an in-depth understanding of employment law. Damian can discuss the ins and outs of your discrimination claim with you and work with you to achieve results. Take a look at Damian’s website today to find out more about how he can help

Do You Need Two Years’ Service to Make an Employment Tribunal Claim?

When facing difficulties at work, understanding your rights and the legal options available to you is crucial. One common misconception among employees is that they need two years of service to make an Employment Tribunal claim. This assumption can often deter employees from seeking justice in situations where they might have a valid claim. 

All employees need to understand the legal protection available to them and in this post, we will explore this topic in more detail. By demystifying the ‘two-year rule’, employees can take informed actions when they face unfair treatment or wrongful practices at work. 

The Two-Year Rule: A General Guideline

Under UK employment law, employees generally need to have worked for their employer for at least two years to claim unfair dismissal at an Employment Tribunal.There are important exceptions to this and employees should be aware of these. For instance, if the employee was dismissed for an automatically unfair reason (such as whistleblowing) there is no minimum service period and all employees can make a claim. 

It is important for employees to understand this rule does not leave them entirely without protection during their first two years of employment and they are protected by legislation like the Equality Act 2010 (EqA).

Exceptions to the Rule

The two-year service requirement does not apply to all types of Employment Tribunal claims. There are several situations where you can make a claim regardless of your length of service, including the following; 

  • Discrimination Claims – If you are facing discrimination at work based on a protected characteristic like sex, age, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or pregnancy and maternity, you do not need two years of service to make a claim. Protection is available at every stage of employment, including recruitment, and this reflects the right for employees to be treated equally and fairly in the workplace.
  • Whistleblowing – Employees who are dismissed for reporting wrongdoing in the workplace, known as whistleblowing, can make a claim without having worked for two years. This protection encourages employees to speak up against unlawful practices, from miscarriages of justice to environmental damage, without fear of suffering any detriment or losing their jobs.
  • Breach of Contract – If your employer breaches the terms of your contract, including wrongful dismissal, you can make a claim regardless of your length of service. This ensures that employers adhere to the terms agreed upon at the start of employment.

Know Your Rights

Knowing your rights is the first step in determining whether you can make a claim. Employment law can be complex and every situation is unique. This is where exploring the ACAS website or getting some advice from an employment law specialist becomes invaluable. Impartial advice can help you to determine the best course of action in your circumstances. Understanding your legal rights is essential not just for pursuing legal action, but also for negotiating with employers and making informed decisions about your employment.

Seek Professional Advice

Consulting with an employment law specialist is crucial when taking a claim to the Employment Tribunal. They can provide expert guidance on your rights and the legal processes involved in making a claim. An experienced specialist can help you navigate the intricacies of employment law, ensuring your case is presented effectively and you get the compensation you deserve for the situation you have experienced. They can also help demystify legal jargon, making the process more accessible and less overwhelming for you.

Prepare Your Case

If you decide to proceed with an Employment Tribunal claim, preparation is key. Collect any relevant documents, emails and witness statements that support your case. An employment law specialist can assist you in organising your evidence and preparing your legal arguments. They can also help identify key issues and ways your case may be discredited by employers, ensuring a comprehensive and well-prepared argument.

Check Time Limits

It is important to act promptly when experiencing problems in the workplace. Employment Tribunal claims must generally be made within three months less one day of the issue or dismissal. Due to this tight timeframe, seeking legal advice as soon as possible is essential. This time limit emphasises the need for quick action and ensures cases are dealt with in a timely manner, which can be crucial for preserving evidence and witness recollections.

The Role of Employment Law Specialists

Employment law specialists are not just legal advisors, they are advocates for your rights in the workplace. They possess the expertise to navigate the complexities of employment law and can represent you at an Employment Tribunal, ensuring your case is heard and your rights are upheld. Their role is pivotal in levelling the playing field between individual employees and their employers, ensuring justice can be sought and you get the compensation you are entitled to regardless of the size or resources of the respondent.

Making an Employment Tribunal Claim 

All in all, while the two-year service rule is a significant aspect of employment law, it does not apply in every case. Understanding the exceptions and your rights as an employee is crucial. Whether you are facing discrimination, wrongful dismissal or other workplace issues, consulting an employment law specialist can provide clarity and guidance. It is essential to remember the law is there to protect you and with the right advice and preparation, you can confidently approach an Employment Tribunal claim, regardless of your length of service.

To speak to an employment law specialist about your unique circumstances in more detail, do not hesitate to contact Damian McCarthy. With over two decades of experience, Damian has handled even the most complex employment law cases and has a track record of turning difficult cases into winning ones. He will work hard to understand your case and achieve the results you were hoping for. You can rest assured that Damian will have your interests in mind at all times and be completely transparent throughout the whole process. 

The Trade Union Act 2016 Explained

The Trade Union Act 2016, which makes a number of changes to the way in which industrial action is organised, came into force on 1 March 2017.

The Act amends the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, including Section 226 on the requirement to hold a ballot before any trade union action.

Under the new regime, a majority vote in favour of industrial action will only be regarded as having the support of a ballot if at least 50 per cent of those entitled to vote did so. Different rules will apply, however, before industrial action in ‘important public services’ can go ahead. These include the health, fire, transport and border security sectors, plus public education provision to those age under 17. In such disputes, a further test is to be applied whereby 40 per cent of all eligible union members must vote in favour of the industrial action for it to be legal.

An overview of the Act and information on further changes can be found here.

Landmark Employment Rights Win for Bicycle Courier

In a case that could have a considerable impact upon the UK gig economy, a London tribunal ruled that Maggie Dewhurst, who works as a courier at the logistics firm City Sprint, should be granted the same rights as other workers despite her status as a self-employed worker.

To receive the same treatment as a fully employed worker gives Ms Dewhurst certain employment rights otherwise denied to self-employed staff, such as sick pay, holiday and and the right to UK national living wage.

The tribunal decision largely relates to a complaint Ms Dewhurst made in regard to pay issues. A statement issued by the tribunal acknowledged that City Sprint “unlawfully failed to pay her for two days’ holiday”, despite the two years of dedicated service she gave to the company.

Reacting to the ruling, City Sprint expressed “disappointment” and will now be reviewing options for an appeal. A spokesman for the business commented:

“This case has demonstrated that there is still widespread confusion regarding this area of law, which is why we are calling on the government to provide better support and help for businesses across the UK who could be similarly affected.”

This individual case could have a large impact upon all companies that are part of the so-called gig economy. This is an area of customer focused UK employment that consists of companies hiring self-employed workers using contracts that limit their employment rights so that they are given working without regular shift patterns unlike full-time workers.

A recent tribunal ruling much like the City Sprint case involves another popular courier business; the taxi-hailing app Uber. This hearing saw legal action being taken by Uber employees and resulted in the business having to provide self-employed drivers with the same benefits that ordinary workers benefit from.

Although Uber intends to appeal this ruling, there are several other tribunal cases currently being heard against other courier businesses relating to claims of unfair treatment against self-employed workers which might also challenge conduct of the gig economy. The other businesses at the centre of these cases include Excel, Addison Lee and E-Courier.

Ms Dewhurst’s case was ruled as one of unfair treatment due to the extent of the workplace expectations placed upon her by City Sprint, which goes far beyond self-employed duties. She stated the following regarding workers of her position:

“we spend all day being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We’re under their control. […] that’s why we deserve basic employment rights like the national minimum wage. I’m delighted that the tribunal ruled in our favour as it has set a legal and moral precedent which others can use to make similar claims.”

Some self-employed workers believe flexible working contracts deny them basic employment rights in a job market that leaves them little to no other employment option.

Employers are unsurprisingly less critical of the use of such contracts, which they often defend on the grounds that they are beneficial to workers due to the flexible working hours offered, which in can potentially let workers conveniently balance personal responsibilities with work.

Many workers and employers both feel that current employment laws need to be edited so that all contracts make clear the law for self-employed workers, thus protecting everyone in a manner that is clear for both parties.

The UK government is currently awaiting the results of an independent review into the modern practices of self-employed workers. It is due for publication in spring 2017.


MPs Seek Maternity Discrimination Rights For New Mothers

The government is progressing with a detailed consultation to assess the various means by which employers might act in a discriminatory away against new mothers in the British workplace.

This investigation comes after a series of eighteen recommendations were put forward in August 2016 by MPs working as part of the government’s Women and Equalities committee. The goal is to establish safeguards that will protect new mothers against employer actions which might cause them to leave their position either through direct dismissal from an employer or as a result of unfair treatment that forces them to resign their position.

UK Business Minister Margot James has spoken about the importance of the consultation and the dedication the committee MPs have for it:

We are determined to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination and a key part of that is making sure new and expectant mothers are supported and treated fairly by their employers. There should be zero tolerance of discrimination against pregnant women, or women who have just given birth.”

Ms James has also stated how the discriminatory actions of bosses goes beyond harming new mothers to ultimately impacting upon UK businesses as a whole: “It is shocking that some employers still behave in this way and alienate a key group of their workforce. It makes no business sense.

The Women and Equalities committee has issued the results of several interviews that were conducted with new mothers to support its position. One anonymous woman claims a planned interview for a partnership position at a law firm was rejected once she returned to work after maternity leave. She subsequently left her position due to the discrimination she suffered.

Another woman, who also chose not to be named, saw her PR position get denied after she returned form maternity: “Before I fell pregnant, I had been asking about promotion opportunities, and possibilities were discussed with my manager […] On my return from maternity leave, I raised the issue of promotion again, and was told that if I wanted any hope of promotion, flexible working would make it very difficult.

Sufficient evidence proves that many working women feel too scared to voice their concern about maternity and pregnancy discrimination for fear they will be regarded as “trouble makers” should they do so, and that any such disclosure will have repercussions for their career as a result.

In total the amount of new and expectant mothers who claim to be forced from their jobs has doubled since 2005, to a total of 54,000.

The Women and Equalities committee seeks an all-encompassing protection for women that will include a “substantial” decrease in the existing £1,200 fee required for bringing a maternity convenience to tribunal.

An extension on the three month deadline for registering a claim is also sought, with the hope of doubling this period to six months. This comes despite government insistence that no evidence indicates an extended time frame will encourage more women to speak out.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady believes that negotiating tribunal fee costs is vital for stopping pregnancy and maternity discrimination occuring: “Bad bosses will continue to get away with discriminating against new mums as long as it costs up to £1,200 to take a pregnancy discrimination claim […] My advice to women is to join a union […] pregnant women and new mums are treated better in workplaces that recognise trade unions.”

How Will Employment Law Change in 2017?

Each year the employment law world experiences a number of changes that will ultimately affect the rulings made by many tribunal hearings.

The past twelve months saw the sanction of a number of government established changes take that will come into law during 2017. Both employers and employees should understand what these changes mean for them. Read on for a number of the most prominent changes that will shape 2017.

Increase of Minimum Wage
From April 2017, the British National Minimum Wage will rise for workers aged 25 and over. The new rate will be set at £7.50 per hour; a 30p increase.

The government has long expressed support for working towards a minimum wage of £9 per hour for all workers aged over 25 by the year 2020.

Although reaching this goal appears to be increasing, the current UK rate is still far below the sum that analysts believe is a fair level of pay when measured against the cost of living in Britain, which is an estimated £8.45 per hour, with £9.75 for London workers.

There will also be a pay increase for workers below 25, as both the 18-20 and 20-24 age groups will see increases of £5.60 and £7.05 respectively.

Foreign Staff Employment
From April 2017, employers who rely on the contribution of workers who hold a Tier 2 visa will now be required to pay a £1,000 employment fee for each worker in accordance with the introduction of the new immigration skills charge. However, charity organisations and smaller businesses will only be required to pay the lower fee of £364 each.

This change coincides with new laws that require Tier 2 workers planning to apply for jobs in Britain as an ‘experienced worker’ to be earning a salary with a minimum of £30,000 per annum. Although some workers employed in the education and health sectors may be exempt from this rate of earning.

Mandatory Apprenticeship Funding
The upcoming year will see large companies need to fund apprenticeship schemes across their business; a move that is hoped to raise at least £3 billion for the UK economy; of which the government will contribute an additional 10% per month.

The tax for this apprenticeship scheme will be set at a rate equivalent to 0.5% of each company’s overall salary bill. This tax, sometimes referred to as the ‘payroll tax’, applies to companies with an annual salary roll in excess of £3 million. This salary cap prevents smaller businesses from suffering against the financial costs involved.

The costs incurred must be also be used to support existing apprenticeships and job training opportunities to allow workers aged 16 and over then opportunity to learn whilst working, with the goal of them gaining a nationally recognised qualification relevant to the business’s industry.

Employers can track their levy sums via a custom account created by the Digital Apprenticeship Service, and they will have the option of an allowance of £15,000 to assist with any difficulties incurred by the cost of the new scheme which begins in May 2017. Businesses that have only recently begun to trade may qualify for additional government assistance.

Gender Pay Gap Report to be Issued

After years of planning, businesses in the public sector with a pay-roll of more than 250 employees will finally have to reveal details of any pay gap between men and women that may exist within the company.

Private and voluntary sectors will be obligated to reveal this information at a later date, with a deadline for the publication of these reports expected in 2018.

Additionally, new rules will be set for stipulating how employers are allowed to release key information regarding the salaries and bonus payments for male and female workers.

Tax-Free Childcare 
The long-awaited tax-free childcare scheme will at last be implemented in 2017. This will allow working families with children aged under twelve to receive 20% support for overall childcare costs, with the maximum amount for an eligible claim set at £2,000 per annum. Although the financial income of a home might be a factor in deciding what the individual minimum and maximum entitlements should be for that family.

Families with disabled children will see the maximum age for their children to receive support raised to seventeen.

The current childcare voucher scheme, supported via employers, will continue to be available for new applicants until April 2018. Families currently relying on this scheme can continue to do so as long as their employer maintains the policy, or until the new tax-free childcare system becomes mandatory.

Salary Sacrifice 
Salary sacrifice benefits are to change from April 2017 as outlined in the 2016 Autumn Statement. This means that most salary sacrifice schemes will soon no longer have permission to avoid the costs required by income taxes, although tax arrangements arranged before April 2017 are to stay protected until April 2018.

Trade Union Balloting 
During 2017 new balloting rules will begin under rules outlined by the Trade Union Act 2016. This includes strike action only being granted if the majority of workers vote in favour of it. A 50% minimum turnout of workers is required.