Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lack of Workplace Flexibility Leaves Women Paying the Part-Time Penalty

Of the UK’s 7.4 million part-time workers, more than three quarters are women who are sacrificing their future career to either care for children or older dependant relatives.

Part-time workers get lower hourly pay, receive less training and therefore see their future career prospects and income eroded. As a result, female workers are significantly disadvantaged in the workplace.

This female “skills drain” is affecting UK productivity and has consequently led to the Equal Opportunities Commission calling for a fundamental shift towards flexible working practices.
Should flexible working become accepted practice across the economy women will be able to vary the time, place or organisation of work, enabling them to work the same hours as men and finally address the current workplace inequality which exists.

Monday, February 14, 2005

An End To Workplace Romance?

The idea of “love contracts” has long been used in America in order to deal with the problems caused by the break-up of a workplace romance.

The contracts see signatories pledge to behave professionally should their romantic involvement with a fellow employee cease, and are soon to be introduced in the UK.

Critics including the TUC are concerned about the level of control that an employer can exert over an employee, in what remains essentially a private matter conducted outside of the workplace.

Indeed, should employees refuse to sign such a contract and are then dismissed for so doing, they would have a strong claim for Unfair Dismissal.

However the need for such a contract from an employer’s perspective cannot be denied in view of recent reports which state that one in four relationships begin at work and the risk of sexual harassment claims against the employer if a relationship goes sour.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/business/4257131.stm

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Half of Mothers to be face discrimination

The Equal Opportunities Commission has unveiled new research which reveals the difficulties facing pregnant women in the workplace.

Around 30,000 of the 441,000 women who every year work while pregnant claim to have been sacked or made redundant as a result of their pregnancy. One in five working pregnant women claim to have lost out financially.

There are concerns that employers who have not adopted to the modern flexible workplace are losing out on the skills and experience of valuable members of staff by not having family friendly policies in place.

The law in relation to maternity rights is extremely complex and it is easy to do the wrong thing even when the employer has the best of intentions. A sensible employer will review their policies and procedures regularly with the help of expert legal advice, rather than risking being one of the 34 employers a month facing a potentially unlimited compensation claim.

For more details see:

http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=122582005

Old age – New rules

The Department of Trade and Industry has decided that, for the first time, employees over the age of 65 will be able to claim redundancy pay, according to press reports.

The full details of the Age Discrimination legislation which will come into force in 2006 are yet to be announced. It therefore remains to be seen whether this is a "sop" to employees or an indication that employers can expect the overall tone of the provisions to be onerous (and therefore potentially costly.)

For example it is not yet clear whether the size of redundancy payments will be affected. At present employees receive 1 ½ weeks' redundancy pay for each full year worked over the age of 41, but there have been suggestions that this will be reduced to 1 week's pay across the board, rather than just for service between the ages of 22 and 41 as at present.

For more details see:

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/7ec5de2c-78ad-11d9-9961-00000e2511c8.html

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Taxing Times

The Court of Appeal has now held that it is not in itself less favourable treatment of a fixed term worker to dismiss them at the expiry of their fixed term.

Mrs Webley was employed on a fixed term contract by the Inland Revenue and felt she had been treated unfairly in being dismissed after 51 weeks (before she qualified to bring an Unfair Dismissal claim.) She claimed this was unlawful discrimination on the grounds of her fixed term status because a permanent employee would not have been sacked after 51 weeks.

The Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and said that as the fixed term was the whole essence of her contract, its expiry in itself could not be a detriment giving rise to a claim.

The Regulations are still comparatively new and it is wise to seek expert advice on their implications.

Ironically the Inland Revenue had paid out substantial ex gratia compensation to the workers who were to replace the fixed term employees, and who were told they would not be needed as a result of the (now overturned) EAT decision!
See a report of the case at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2004/1745.html

Incapacity Benefit

This is a "hot topic" at the moment given Tony Blair's expressed intention to clamp down on claimants.

By co-incidence the Employment Appeals Tribunal has very recently confirmed that Tribunals must deduct the entire amount of Incapacity Benefit received from the compensation they award to a successful Claimant.

Previous case law suggested that only 50% was to be deducted, but the EAT said that this would give the employee a "windfall" because Incapacity Benefit is not covered by the recoupment provisions which require benefits to be repaid to the Department of Works and Pensions out of any damages.

This is of course good news for employers facing a Tribunal claim but the best advice is of course to avoid ending up in the Tribunal in the first place.

There is a full report on this case at www.employmentappeals.gov.uk/uploads/UKEAT0438041712005/index.htm
Read more about the Government's plans at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4224721.stm