Friday, March 11, 2005

£82,000 for Council worker subject to racial discrimination and victimisation

A whistleblower was recently awarded £82,000 from her ex-employer Sandwell Borough Council for racial discrimination and victimisation.

Caroline Duncan informed on the improper selection process used to re-house families. In 1998 she became aware that a white family had been housed before an Asian family despite the fact that the Asian family had been a higher priority on the housing list.

Miss Duncan subsequently suffered victimisation and racial discrimination from her fellow colleagues who made her sit at a desk alone and generally made life very difficult for her. She was also overlooked some 11 times for promotion into management and senior officer positions.

While the Council are considering lodging an appeal against the level of compensation awarded this cannot detract from the fact that Miss Duncan has won her case on a personal level showing that people and professional bodies alike who allow such victimisation to go ahead will be called upon to answer to their actions.

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The Penalties of Part-Time Work for Females

Recent reports have highlighted that many female part-time workers are at a significant career disadvantage compared to their fellow female full-time workers.

Many females opt for the flexibility of part-time work so as they can continue with the care of children or older relatives. However it seems that this flexibility does not come without a price as many part-time workers find themselves stuck in lower-status jobs with little or no prospects of promotion and inevitability lower pay.

It can only be hoped that the gap between the part-time worker and the full-time worker is vastly reduced as the concept of flexible working patterns become more widely accepted by employers.

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Swearing in the workplace – gross misconduct?

Few employers would dispute that the use of foul language by an employee is no longer acceptable behaviour and amounts to gross misconduct justifying immediate dismissal.

However, a Tribunal has found that a female lorry driver sacked for swearing at an assistant warehouse manager was unfairly dismissed.

The employee had become frustrated when she found another lorry blocking her way at a tyre depot. She used foul language and was consequently sacked for gross misconduct.

The employee expressed remorse for her actions, acknowledging that her language was disgusting and that she had not acted like a lady should.

The Tribunal ruled that she had contributed to her dismissal to the degree of 25% and awarded £4,000.00 in compensation. The Tribunal declined to order reinstatement.

The decision is to some extent surprising given the severity of the language used. However, Tribunals are willing to look at all the circumstances of a case and a relevant factor appears to be that more colourful language may be tolerated as the norm in the working environment of a lorry driver as opposed to an office worker.

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Police Authority Fail To Defend Equal Pay Claim

A Police Authority has been ordered to pay compensation of between £7,600.00 and £19,000.00 to 7 female employees, after it was proven they were being paid less than their male colleagues for doing similar work.

The Police Authority admitted liability after an independent job evaluation report found in the women’s favour, all of whom were in senior administration posts.

The women’s Union, Unison welcomed the decision, stating that it proved that this sort of discrimination had to stop or employers would be forced to pay out huge sums in compensation.

Hopefully this decision reinforces what should already be accepted practice, that women should be without question or qualification be paid the same as men who are doing work of a similar nature, and the police as enforcers of justice should not need the wake up call that this decision has given them.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Maternity costs set to rise

The European Court of Justice has ruled that maternity payments must ensure that the recipient benefits in full from any pay rises awarded during her maternity leave.

This will even apply where the pay rise takes effect for other employees later than the first six weeks of the leave.

There is some suggestion that this change may be retrospective – potentially reaching back as far as 1976 when the relevant provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act came into force!

Whilst this is good news for pregnant women businesses will worry that this is just the latest increase in the financial and administrative/record keeping burden in this area. With paid Ordinary Maternity Leave set to be extended from 6 to 9 months by 2007 this is a burden which is only going to increase.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Agencies Under Fire

The TUC has accused many employment agencies of dubious practices which lead to agency workers receiving less than the National Minimum Wage.

Amongst the scams are charging for cashing pay cheques.

The law in relation to Employment Agencies was significantly tightened last year and it is easy for even a reputable agency to fall foul of the complexities of the rules. In certain circumstances the contract may be unenforceable if the agency worker is not informed of certain rights at the outset.
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Long Hours - A British Disease?

The TUC last week urged employees to celebrate "Work Your Proper Hours Day" by sending their employers an anonymous "Bossogram" pointing out the amount of unpaid overtime which they do.

They claim that the UK has a "long hours culture" and that British workers carry out £23 billion pounds worth of unpaid overtime every year.

Long working hours can lead to stress, family breakdowns and ultimately to decreased productivity.

They can also leave employers facing hefty compensation claims, especially where the complex Working Time Regulations have not been followed.

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National Minimum Wage - On The Up

The Prime Minister announced on Friday that the National Minimum Wage will increase to £5.05 per hour in October. This will be the first time that it will have broken the £5.00 mark.

In due course it is intended to increase the figure to £5.30.

There is a sharp divide between Unions and Business on this issue. The TUC claims that the rate is still too low, whilst employers' organisations claim that the increase will lead to job losses.

Although the principle of a National Minimum Wage now appears to be accepted by most, the level at which it should be set will remain a focus of controversy and the considerable complexity of the Regulations will continue to cause headaches for those who have to apply them.
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