Friday, February 26, 2010

Maternity Pay Extension backed by MEPs

A committee of the European Parliament has approved draft legislation which if implemented would require employers to pay women on maternity leave full pay for 20 weeks.

The current legislation in England and Wales provides for payment of 90% of normal pay for the first 6 weeks and then Statutory Maternity Pay (which will generally be at a lower sum) for a maximum of a further 33 weeks.

The European Parliament will consider the proposal in early March although doubts have been expressed as to whether it will ever be implemented given the potential for a further financial burden on employers and/or Governments at a time when economic confidence is still very fragile.

The UK Government, the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce have already expressed concern about the additional costs which would be involved, especially when UK legislation in this area is already generous by comparison with a lot of other EU countries.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Asda Doesn't Pay the Price!

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has recently upheld an Employment Tribunal decision rejecting 6 test cases by Asda employees complaining of unlawful deduction from wages.

Asda wanted to introduce a unified pay structure and invoked a clause in the Staff Handbook giving them the right to revise its contents. Over 9,000 employees accepted this but some claimed that it was an unlawful unilateral variation of their contracts.

The EAT held that the clause was entirely clear and that it did give Asda the right to unilaterally change even a fundamental term such as one relating to pay.

Asda benefitted from the fact that the Staff Handbook made clear that certain clauses in it were of contractual effect.

The status of terms in Staff Handbooks can be problematic. It is important, particularly if it contains information relating to central issues like pay, hours and holiday entitlement, that it is made clear whether the document is intended to be contractual or simply a note of current procedures and policy. There is a lot to be said for keeping contract terms and Staff Handbooks distinct from each other.

There is a report of the case at:-http://www.employmentappeals.gov.uk/Public/Upload/09_0221rjfhLBZT.doc

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Serial Litigants - The Worm Turns

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has recently held that an Employment Tribunal was justified in dismissing the Age Discrimination Claim of an applicant who it found had no genuine intention of taking the job if she was offered it.

It appears from the report that the Claimant alleged she was making a point about age discrimination in the job market but from the number of Claims she had pursued and the number of settlements that she had achieved it also seemed to be quite financially lucrative.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the Claimant's Counsel had quite correctly conceded that she could not show the "detriment" required for a discrimination claim if she did not in fact have any real wish to get the job.

There are a small number of serial litigants out there who try and make a living from this sort of Claim. To avoid giving them any opportunity to attack you, ensure that nothing in your job advertisements can be construed as discriminatory and be prepared to demonstrate a documented thought process as to why a particular applicant was rejected or not shortlisted for interview.

There is a report of this case at:-

http://www.employmentappeals.gov.uk/Public/Upload/09_0389phaowwLBSM.doc

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

7 Hours on Maternity Leave

A Headmistress in Wiltshire has made headlines in the national media by returning to work a mere 7 hours after giving birth to her third child.

Dr Helen Wright, 39, wanted to send a message to the pupils at the all-girl school that having a successful work/life balance is not an impossible dream.

Strictly speaking as a matter of law, 2 weeks' maternity leave is compulsory (4 weeks for employees in factories) but when you are the boss (or a "high-flyer") then you can of course make your own rules.

Dr Wright was keen to stress the School's commitment to flexible working, such as allowing teachers to return part-time and fit their teaching duties around their home life - possibly a more orthodox approach to the issue than returning to your desk straight from the Maternity Ward!