Friday, June 10, 2005

Crackdown on Workplace Computer Misuse

According to today's Times an Audit Commission report has found that nearly 50% of cases of IT abuse in the public sector relate to the downloading of porn.

In a scathing report the Commission criticises a "culture of complacency" and calls for the use of software which blocks access to such sites.

A growing proportion of Employment Tribunal cases involving Unfair Dismissal are believed to relate to misuse of the Internet at work.

Employers have not always won the reported cases and problems can arise where it has not been made clear what is and is not an acceptable use of workplace IT. This can be avoided by having a clear written IT policy and asking all staff to sign a copy as confirmation that they are familiar with the contents.

For further information see
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1646787,00.html
and

Monday, June 06, 2005

Who Is My Employer?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has once again recently had to tackle the vexed question as to who is the Employer in a case where the employee had been provided via an Employment Agency.

In the case of Bushaway v RNLI, the Employment Tribunal found Mrs Bushaway was an employee of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution throughout the period she worked for the RNLI notwithstanding that for the first part of the period in question she was a "temp" supplied by an agency.

The practical importance of the distinction was that unless Mrs Bushaway could show that she was an employee throughout she would not have the necessary 12 months' qualifying employment to bring a Claim.

This is always an area which is ripe for litigation and employers need to be aware that the Tribunal will look behind how the parties have described the situation in documents and assess the reality of the relationship.

There were quite significant differences between the arrangements for the Claimant and permanent employees but the EAT held that the Tribunal had asked itself the right questions in deciding that she was an employee and its decision was not therefore open to attack.

The best practical advice may well therefore be that where employers are dispensing with a worker's services they should ensure that they follow a fair procedure just in case a Tribunal concludes that they are an employee, whatever the paperwork says.

Incidentally, it has recently been reported that there is at the present time a case going through the system as to whether volunteers working for the RNLI are "employees" for the purposes of employment legislation. This is a matter of some practical importance to charitable organisations and seems to be producing a lot of litigation at present. The outcome of that case will be awaited with interest.

There is a report of the case at

Opting Out Remains An Option!

The EU Parliament's controversial proposal for the removal of the UK's "opt-out" from the maximum 48 hour working week under the Working Time Directive has bitten the dust after the Government managed to obtain enough support in the Council of Ministers to prevent the matter being put to a vote.

The matter is unlikely to be raised again in the foreseeable future, especially as the UK is about to take over the EU presidency and given the general uncertainty as to the future direction of the EU in the wake of the rejection of the proposed EU constitution by French and Dutch voters.

Business leaders have reacted positively to the news and are keen to stress the competitive edge which the "opt-out" gives the UK, combined with our remaining outside of the "Euro zone."

Trade Unions, who have long campaigned for the end of the "opt-out", have expressed their disappointment at the loss of an opportunity to put an end to the UK's perceived "long hours culture", although employers would point out that many of those working the longest hours are high-earning, well motivated staff working those hours because they want to.

For more details please see