Employment Bulletin – April 2018

May welcomes ‘Good Work Plan’ to improve worker rights

The government is set to launch its ‘Good Work Plan’ to keep employment laws up-to-date with the changing world of work in the modern economy.

It follows recommendations made in the Taylor Review of working practices and it is hoped that millions of workers will benefit from the reforms.

The government will seek to protect workers’ rights by:

  • taking further action to ensure unpaid interns are not doing the job of a worker
  • introducing a new naming scheme for employers who fail to pay employment tribunal awards
  • quadrupling employment tribunal fines for employers showing malice, spite or gross oversight to £20,000 and considering increasing penalties for employers who have previously lost similar cases.

The government says it will ensure workers are paid fairly by:

  • providing all 1.2 million agency workers with a clear breakdown of who pays them and any costs or charges deducted from their wages
  • asking the Low Pay Commission to consider the impact of higher minimum wage rates for workers on zero-hour contracts
  • considering repealing laws allowing agencies to employ workers on cheaper rates.

The government will increase transparency in the business environment by:

  • defining ‘working time’ for flexible workers who find jobs through apps or online so they know when they should be being paid
  • launching a task force with business to promote awareness and take-up of the right to request flexible working introduced in 2014
  • making sure new and expectant mothers know their workplace rights and raise awareness among employers of their obligations
  • launching a new campaign to encourage more working parents to share childcare through Shared Parental Leave – a right introduced in 2015.

In some cases the government plans to go further than the review’s proposals, including:

  • enforcing vulnerable workers’ holiday and sick pay for the first time
  • a list of day-one rights including holiday and sick pay entitlements and a new right to a payslip for all workers, including casual and zero-hour workers
  • a right for all workers, not just zero-hour and agency, to request a more stable contract, providing more financial security for those on flexible contracts.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We recognise the world of work is changing and we have to make sure we have the right structures in place to reflect those changes, enhancing the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to do business.”

 

Manager ‘unfairly dismissed’ for refusing pay cut

A shop manager has won her unfair dismissal claim after she was sacked for refusing to accept a new contract on a lower pay grade.

The manager had worked for her employer for 18 years.

The company restructured its employment model, merging the roles of shop manager and deputy manager into one new position.

The new contract offered to the manager meant her annual salary would have fallen by almost £5,000.

She would also have lost the benefits of double pay on bank holidays and time-and-a-half pay on Sundays, and been required to work five days between Monday and Sunday, as opposed to five days between Monday and Saturday.

The manager was offered a supplement of almost £5,000 on her wages for her first year in the new role.

She refused to sign the new contract, despite several meetings with her managers in which she was warned that it could result in her being dismissed.

The manager received a letter from her employer terminating her employment, although she was invited to re-apply under the new terms.

She took the case to an Employment Tribunal, which ruled in her favour.

The judge said the employer’s actions were “dismissive” and displayed “unreasonable inflexibility… evidenced by its approach to her grievance”.

 

Whistleblower awarded £45,000 over constructive unfair dismissal

A school dinner lady has been awarded £45,000 in compensation after she was subjected to bullying because she reported a breach of policy by her colleague.

The employee became aware that some of the kitchen equipment was being taken off site for private use by a member of staff.

She reported the breach, but no investigation was made. The employee made another complaint which led to the resignation of the alleged offending staff member.

However, the employee claimed she was subjected to bullying after it became known that she had made the initial complaint. She reported the hostile working environment, but no action was taken by her managers.

She felt she had no choice but to resign and made a claim of constructive unfair dismissal.

The tribunal ruled in her favour. It stated that the bullying allegations “ought to have been investigated by management’ and that the employer “did not adequately respond” to the complaints.

She was awarded £45,000 in compensation.

 

Firm halts progress of family who set up rival business

A firm that bought a clothing business from a group of family members has won a court injunction to prevent them setting up in competition.

The court heard that the family had sold their business for a substantial sum. The new owners employed the family members under contracts containing restrictive covenants preventing them setting up a rival business while still employed or for 12 months after resigning.

All the family members then resigned shortly after the takeover.

The new owners alleged they breached the covenants by creating a competing business while still employed, soliciting other employees and customers, and using confidential information.

The court found in favour of the new owners. It said they had presented a strong case that the family had been building up a new competitive company while still in employment, had made use of connections with customers, suppliers and employees, and of confidential information to secure orders.

It granted an interim injunction enforcing the covenants until the issues could be dealt with at a full trial.

The court also granted the new owners springboard relief. This is an injunction that prevents an employee gaining an unfair advantage or head start by abusing his employer’s trust and resources while secretly setting up a rival business.

The order is designed to leave the employee in the same position he would have been in if he had resigned and obeyed the terms of his contract before setting up a new business.