Friday, 9 December 2011

Unusually long work hours for UK workers

New data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that workers in the UK are working more hours per week than workers in most other European countries. On average, the time worked weekly by UK workers is 42.7 hours, this compares to the significantly lower EU average of 37.4 hours per week.

The data showed that there were only two EU countries, Greece and Austria, in which workers worked longer hours than those in the UK.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Expected rise in equal pay claims following court of appeal judgment

Jobs with women as the prominent workforce have traditionally seen less generous salaries than male-dominated professions. In several recent judicial judgments the courts have actively sought to fill such a gap.

Last week the court of appeal ruled that claims relating to equal pay cannot only be heard in employment tribunals, but that the high court also has jurisdiction over such claims.

It is envisioned that, as a consequence of the judgment, there will be a sharp increase in the number of claims relating to equal pay. The expected rise in claims is envisioned as the high court does not operate under the same strict time limit as employment tribunals. For a case to be heard in an employment tribunal it must be brought within six months of the challenged event, whilst the time limit for bringing a case to the high court is six years.

The case in question involved former female employees of Birmingham City Council who were in traditionally female employment positions and received a lower salary than men in the same pay band.

The court of appeal, upholding the judgment of the lower instance, found that the high court was authorised to hear matters concerning equal pay, even if the employment had ended more than six months ago.

The Council intends to appeal the decision. Chris Benson, the solicitor representing the former workers, said that not accepting equal pay was an outdated notion. "It is disappointing for our clients, and no doubt of concern to the taxpayers of Birmingham, that they have decided to appeal again to the supreme court and we would urge them to reconsider. In some councils these inequalities have only recently been phased out and in other cases the inequalities amazingly still exist."

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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Government hopes liberalisation of employment laws will boost employment

The Government is looking to liberalise employment laws in order to get more people into employment. However, many employees and trade unions are concerned that the proposed measures will have a disproportionately negative impact on workers’ rights.

Disputing such fears, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, insists that the new policies will create a more balanced working climate. As such, he said that fears over the reforms creating a “hiring and firing” climate were unwarranted.

The Government is convinced that the reforms will support the employment sector by reducing bureaucracy and enabling employers to be more honest with their employees without fear of legal repercussions.
One of the most controversial changes relates to the period that an employee must have been with their employer before they can claim for unfair dismissal, which is to be raised from one year to two years of continuous employment.

After the so-called Beecroft report leaked, speculation arose of the Government possibly scrapping the right of employees to claim for unfair dismissal completely.

The un-commissioned report’s proposal was criticised heavily by the Deputy Prime Minster, Nick Clegg. However, Cable is now intending to ease the running of small businesses, which have fewer than ten employees.
As part of this, the Coalition Government is expected to announce a different unfair dismissal framework for small businesses.

"Essentially, we don't want to create an environment in which there is insecurity and people fear for their jobs. That would not be helpful at all. But we do want to help small companies feel confident enough to take on staff, so there is an issue about balance here."

Trade unions are disappointed with the proposals. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: "Reducing protection for people at work will not save or create a single job. It's not employment laws holding firms back, it's the tough economic climate and the problems many companies are having getting the banks to lend to them that's to blame."

The Government is also considering cutting the consultation period on redundancies, from 90 to 30 days. However, Cable said that any decisions will only be taken if evidence gathered supports such a move.
“The whole basis of which we are making policy judgments is evidence. You make decisions based on evidence, and that is the way we are approaching it. We do not want to create the situation in which people feel greater insecurity at work, particularly at times of economic difficulty.

"We also want to create an environment in which entrepreneurs want to start businesses, expand, take on staff and feel confident they can do that. We have to get the balance right but we don't want to create an environment in which people feel insecure at work … That is not what we need."

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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Job losses and job insecurity to last until 2013

On Monday, a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development warned that the job market is going to experience a "slow, painful contraction". Today, this prediction proved to be accurate as the Bank of England lowered its forecast for UK growth and inflation.

Although opinions vary on when the UK economy will fully recover, the bank’s monetary policy committee did not predict this to happen before 2013. The bank said that "Implementation of a credible and effective policy response in the euro area would help to reduce uncertainty and so support UK growth, but its absence poses the single biggest risk to the domestic recovery".

Although the Government sees the main cause of the current financial climate to be the instability of the eurozone, the opposition says that the high level of unemployment is a consequence of the austerity measures. The Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, said, "The British economic recovery was choked off well before the instability in the last few months in the eurozone.

"The government is cutting too far and too fast and it's pushing borrowing and unemployment up at the same time."

The Bank of England said that the unstable climate will remain until the eurozone makes a full recovery. Until then, exports will remain low, which has a negative impact on the UK job market.

Moreover, the Office for National Statistics published new numbers on unemployment. These indicated that youth unemployment has risen to above one million, and that the total people out of employment in the country numbers a staggering 2.62 million.

Many young people are finding it difficult to find employment. Even if they succeed in doing so, they often remain anxious because of the low level of job security. The Government has imposed significant cuts to schemes that encourage students to enter the job market. Additionally, funding to companies employing young workers, youth clubs and charities have been poorly affected by the austerity measures.

Paul Brown, Director at the Prince's Trust, said, "I think it's a wake-up call to the country... We can't afford to wake up in three years time when the economy grows and find that there are a group of young people who have been left behind.

"Unemployment isn't just a financial problem. It can very badly affect the rest of people's lives."

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Friday, 11 November 2011

Is export industry growth a false dawn?

The Office for National Statistics has published new numbers indicating that the manufacturing sector grew slightly in September. However, the overall index of production, which includes mining, oil and gas industries, remains flat. As such, concern remains over the stability of the UK’s production industry.

The ONS numbers showed that manufacturing output increased by 0.2% between August and September. This compares to the previous month, when a 0.3% decline was recorded, and is the first modest growth that the sector has experienced since May.

Positive industry developments have been long awaited as it previously played a central role in the recovery of the UK’s financial state of affairs. Concomitantly with the recession, the pound fell in value. This currency fall was positive for the export industry, as it meant that British goods were cheap to buy for many countries. Hence, British companies could sell their goods and maintain their workforce, which strengthened employees’ feeling of security.

In light of this, the government, in trying to get the economy back on track, is focusing heavily on boosting UK exports.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) optimistically received the new numbers. Its Chief Economist, David Kern, said: "Seeing the sector remain in positive territory despite difficulties in the eurozone and tough austerity measures in the UK is reassuring.

"Although pessimism about the health of manufacturing is unnecessary, the sector does face difficult challenges and we must reinforce the modest recovery that we are seeing."

However, Chris Williamson, chief economist at the financial information services company Markit, doubted that the numbers indicated a turn in the financial climate.

"This is a disappointing rate of growth for a sector that was hoped to lead the UK's economic recovery, and growth looks set to weaken further in the final quarter of the year." Furthermore, Williamson said that the slow economic growth meant that there remained "a clear risk" of the sector going back into recession, unless it experienced significant growth in the near future.

However, any considerable growth seems to be far off in light of recent industry surveys. These have indicated that the sector is struggling significantly, and that it has experienced a drastic fall in orders.
This is inconsistent with the ONS numbers. Effectively, the findings of the industry surveys point to a deterioration in the sector’s performance. This can be due to the fact that manufacturing has been seriously affected by the decrease in consumer spending and the eurozone debt crisis.

Williamson said that any numbers must be interpreted in the context of the global financial climate. "While there are signs that UK producers are raising their productivity, facing up to the need to adapt and compete aggressively in today's markets, the simple truth is that the current weakness of economic growth at home and abroad means that producers face a challenging time ahead."

This challenging time is likely to make many workers concerned about the security of their jobs. Seeing that Britain relies heavily on Europe as a trading partner, many UK jobs are dependent on the eurozone crisis being solved.

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Friday, 4 November 2011

Further job losses on the horizon as 2012 approaches

New Government measures could are likely to mean that green energy companies will have to cut the number of employees. This is likely to be a consequence of this week’s Government announcement that anyone who installs a solar panel power system after 12 December this year will only be paid half of the current Feed-in-Tariff (FIT).

Under the Government’s FIT scheme, consumers who install electricity-generating technology from an environmentally friendly source may be entitled to get money from their energy supplier. For consumers, this means that the price of their electricity bills will decrease.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Government attempting to boost the economy: at the price of employees?

During the past year the Coalition Government has taken several steps to boost the economy by introducing new labour market reforms. This week it emerged that there are those in Whitehall who advocate for further radical measures, hoping that this would encourage economic growth.

The Government has justified the reforms as combating unemployment, but this desired outcome is not reflected in recent numbers. Rather, new figures indicate that unemployment has increased significantly. The official numbers show that unemployment rose by 114,000 between June and August 2011, to 2.57 million.

As a result, the Government’s employment law reforms are being questioned increasingly. Ed Miliband, the opposition leader, said "A year ago ... the prime minister justified his economic policy by saying unemployment would fall this year, next year and the year after. Isn't it time he admitted his plan isn't working?"

Despite accusations of the measures being unsuccessful, the Prime Minster, David Cameron, remains convinced that his Government will be able to reduce the deficit.

This week, an unofficial report emerged from Downing Street, which advocated further significant measures. The report was prepared by Adrian Beecroft, a Conservative donor. In it, he claimed that unfair dismissal laws should be scrapped completely. He considers that although this would lead to greater insecurity among employees, it was a price worth paying for economic growth.

However, the unofficial proposal has been heavily criticised by many cross-party members, including Vince Cable, the Business Secretary. Cable said, "No evidence has been advanced that I have seen that it will improve labour market flexibility in general, or have any beneficial effect, but if anyone can produce any, we will look at it."

The Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, thought that the leaked report showed that the Government did not have the right focus. She said, "I find it absolutely extraordinary that the government should be preoccupying itself with how it can make it easier to fire people when in that context it should be looking at how it can make it easier to hire people."

On the other hand, business advocates consider that the report’s suggestions, if implemented, would have positive outcomes. For instance, Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said "The IoD strongly supports radical change to employee dismissal processes and fully backs 'Compensated No Fault Dismissal' as part of a solution. Ministers would do well to act upon Mr Beecroft's suggestions, freeing up wasted time and money from litigation and ensuring it is instead channelled into job creation and business growth."

The Government is being increasingly pressured to find a solution to the UK’s financial crisis, particularly as it is being less and less attributed to the eurozone tumult. Whether increased insecurity is the solution to the problems is being increasingly questioned as the economy remains in a fragile state.

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Monday, 3 October 2011

New month, new employment laws

The month of October 2011 has brought with it some important changes to employment law in the UK. Employers and employees should both be aware of these changes, so they can ensure they are up-to-date on their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Firstly, the Agency Workers Directive (AWD) came into force on 1 October giving agency workers more rights in the workplace.

The AWD confers certain rights to those workers who have a contract with a temporary workers agency and get sent to different employers on assignment. Temporary workers who are hired directly by their employer or through an employment agency (with whom they do not have a contract or continuing relationship after they have been hired) are not included under the AWD.

So what new rights will agency workers have under the new law? From their first day with their new employer they will be able to access all the facilities that are open and available to normal permanent employees, such as staff canteens, gyms, and childcare facilities. In addition, they will also be entitled to access job opportunities with that employer in the same way as permanent staff.

After an agency worker has been on their assignment for 12 weeks, they will be entitled to the same basic rights and working conditions as their permanent counterparts. These rights include the right to paid time off for antenatal appointments and the right to be paid the same wage.

It will be up to both the agency and the employer to ensure that temporary agency workers are being treated in accordance with the new AWD.

Secondly, 30 September saw the last time an employee could be forced to retire by an employer under the default retirement age. Although technically abolished on 6 April 2011, employers could see through a forced retirement that was already in motion, so long as the employee in question turned 65 (or the normal age of retirement within that company if higher)on or before 30 September.

The abolition of the default retirement age means that if an employer wants to retire employees at a set age, they will need to have a good reason to do so. Under employment law, a good reason to do so is known as an ‘objective justification’.

Finally, the minimum wage saw an increase of 15p from £5.93 to £6.08 per hour. The youth rate increased from £4.92 to £4.98, and the rate for workers aged 16 and 17 increased from £3.64 to £3.68. The rate for apprentices also increased, from £2.50 to £2.60.

If you would like any legal advice on October’s changes to employment law, call Job Justice today. We work with local, recommended employment law solicitors throughout the UK.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

News of the World reporter claims unfair dismissal against News International

A former chief reporter at the News of the World, who has been arrested and bailed in connection to the current phone-hacking investigation, is claiming unfair dismissal against News International in an employment tribunal.

Neville Thurlbeck is expected to claim on Friday 30 September at an East London employment tribunal that his former employer dismissed him for whistleblowing.

Mr Thurlbeck is the Neville in the ‘for Neville’ email that is a key part of the investigation into the illegal phone hacking that took place at the News of the World, the newspaper which closed in July 2011 after 168 years of circulation because of the scandal.

The ‘for Neville’ email supposedly shows how the practice of phone hacking was not limited to a single ‘rogue reporter’ at the News of the World, as both the paper and News International had claimed in their defence.

Dismissing an employee for making a public interest disclosure, or ‘blowing the whistle’ as it’s more commonly known, is an automatically unfair reason for dismissal.

Blowing the whistle means reporting wrong doing in the workplace to the employer and being protected from dismissal under employment law for doing so. Employment contracts and employee handbooks should be consulted by an employee before blowing the whistle, as the employer may have specific procedures in place that must be followed if their employment rights are to be protected.

If the employment tribunal finds that the paper dismissed Mr Thurlbeck for unfair dismissal, he will be entitled to compensation.

Job Justice works with specialist employment law solicitors throughout the UK who can assist you, whether you are the employer or employee, if you need legal advice about whistleblowing. Contact us today and we can put you in touch with an employment solicitor who is right for you.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Microsoft and the ‘glass ceiling’

Questions surrounding Microsoft UK and its support of women in the workplace have been raised following a revelation that it paid one of its former senior female managers ‘more than £1million’ after she was beaten to a top position by a male colleague.

Natalie Ayres worked for Microsoft UK for 15 years before reaching the post of general manager of the Small–Medium Enterprises and Partners Group. She was widely thought to be the best candidate for the role of managing director of Microsoft UK, which would become available in the summer of 2006.

However, the position was instead filled by Gordon Frazer, the general manager at Microsoft South Africa.

It has been alleged that he was given the job before the married mother had completed the interview process.

Ayres then left the company at the end of 2006 under a compromise agreement that reportedly included a seven-figure sum.

A compromise agreement is an agreement between an employer and employee that is reached on the termination of the employee’s employment. They typically offer the employee a sum of money in return for the agreement to not pursue a potential claim against the employer. They are not only used where there is a definite claim, but can be used when the employee or employer has not behaved in exact accordance with the employment contract.

A compromise agreement also usually contains a confidentiality clause that prevents the employee from discussing their employment, their former employer, and the contents of the compromise agreement.

It must be signed by an independent employment solicitor on behalf of the employee to ensure they have received legal advice and are not signing an unfair agreement to give up their rights to a legal claim.

Ayres departure, compromise agreement in hand, caused anger amongst some of her colleagues. They felt she had been unfairly treated by Microsoft and that there was a ‘glass ceiling’ for females within the company that prevented them from rising above a certain level of management.

One source called the higher echelons of the company a “boys’ club” and said: “The only way to progress beyond a certain point is to become a male in female clothing”.

The revelations come less than a month after the details of a sexual harassment claim have been made public in a £10million High Court battle between Microsoft and an employee.

A Microsoft spokesman said: “Microsoft does not comment about individual employees, current or former. However, Microsoft places great importance on the core values of diversity and inclusiveness, which is just one of many reasons why it is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 work places in the UK.”

Job Justice works with employment solicitors throughout the UK. If you are facing a sex discrimination claim from an employee, or would like to make a claim against your employer, get in touch today. We will find the right employment solicitor for your needs.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Council unfairly dismissed worker to avoid pension costs

Bristol Employment Tribunal has found that Tewkesbury Borough Council dismissed worker Christopher Walsh unfairly on the grounds of age discrimination, after it dismissed him months before his fiftieth birthday.

The Employment Tribunal found the Council did not want to incur £90,000 in pension costs once Mr Walsh turned 50 in December 2009. The Council therefore refused to extend his employment under transitional provisions.

Mr Walsh was initially told he faced redundancy from his position in March 2010 when five leisure centres which he managed were to be transferred to external control. However, his job looked less secure earlier than that in September 2009 when a colleague was appointed to handle the transfer process between the Council and the company taking over control of the five centres.

However, Mr Walsh provided support to the colleague because of his expertise in the area. It was suggested by his legal team in the Tribunal that he should have been retained until the transfer was completed because of his expertise in this area.

However, in a meeting between the Council’s interim chief executive and a HR consultant for the transfer to discuss the possibility of an extension of Mr Walsh’s employment, the HR consultant asked for a calculation of Mr Walsh’s pension.

Mr Walsh told the Employment Tribunal that he was then told his dismissal was because the Council did not want to incur the cost of his pension.

The Council argued that he was dismissed because his role was redundant but the Tribunal found with Mr Walsh had been discriminated against because of his age and that he had been unfairly dismissed. He is claiming £250,000 in compensation.

Although not binding, the Employment Tribunal’s decision should be heeded by the public sector in this time of collective redundancy necessitated by the Coalition Government’s far-reaching austerity cuts. The decision allows genuine redundancies of employees if their job no longer exists; however, it warns that the redundancy should not be manipulated to provide a benefit for the employer, such as moving it forward by a few months to avoid incurring pension costs.

Job Justice works with recommended employment solicitors throughout the UK. If you are facing redundancy, or if you want to instigate redundancies, and you require legal advice, call free today on 0800 533 5799 and let us find the right solicitor for you.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Agency Workers Directive could be diluted by Government after legal advice

The controversial European directive on agency workers' employment rights could be watered down  by the Government after the Prime Minister’s office took independent legal advice on the effects of the new laws, which are due to come into effect on 1 October 2011.

The Agency Workers Directive will give over one million workers employment rights that they currently don’t enjoy. A worker who has been in a position for twelve weeks will be entitled to the same rights regarding pay, holiday and maternity leave as a permanent employee.

Critics of the European legislation say it will cost British businesses £2 billion a year. Small employers are expected to pay out an extra £2,493 per year, and larger employers are expected to pay out an extra £73,188 per year. Some businesses may simply stop hiring agency staff as a result of the extra costs they could incur.

The extra costs to business and the possible effects on the rate of employment have caused considerable concern in Downing Street, so much so that Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s director of policy, secretly hired outside legal counsel from Martin Howe QC, according to the Telegraph.

The legal advice concluded that the Government does have options in regard to the Agency Workers Directive.

The UK’s instrument implementing the directive, the Agency Workers Regulations, had been ‘gold plated’ by the Business Secretary’s department according to the legal advice. This means the Government can dilute the regulations to ease their effect on businesses and delay their implementation.

The ‘gold plating’ occurred despite the coalition’s pledge to not implement regulations that would hinder growth and business.

Another option would be to introduce new legislation that would override the European directive. Thirdly, the Government could ignore the directive entirely. This final option could cost the Government dearly in expensive fines from Europe.

Although the Government does have options, it appears none are solid, as they would require gaining approval from the Liberal Democrats and appeasing the trade unions.

The Telegraph suggests that the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, is in the Government’s bad books, especially as it is extremely unusual for the Government to seek external legal advice rather than relying on its own lawyers in Whitehall.

Let’s not forget – although businesses may suffer from the implementation of the Agency Workers Directive, if it is watered down or delayed, over one million agency workers will miss out on some of the basic employment rights enjoyed by employees throughout Europe.

For legal advice on the new regulations and their implementation, contact Job Justice today. We work with excellent employment solicitors throughout the UK who can advise you on this matter, and any other employment-law related issues.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Andy Coulson paid hundreds of thousands of pounds from News International under compromise agreement

Andy Coulson, former editor at the News of the World and media advisor to David Cameron, has received several hundred thousands of pounds from News International as part of a compromise agreement that was made when he resigned in January 2007.

Coulson, who has been arrested by the police investigating allegations of phone hacking involving the News of the World, received payments from News International while he was working as the Conservative Party’s Director of Communications during 2007.

This financial link has raised further questions about Coulson’s impartiality, and further questions about the Prime Minister’s judgement for having hired him in the first place.

Coulson left the News of the World in January 2007 after Clive Goodman, the paper’s royal editor, was arrested and jailed for phone hacking. He started his new job with the Conservative Party in July 2007, on a salary of £275,000. He continued to receive payments from News International until the end of that year.

According to the BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston, the compromise agreement allowed Coulson to receive his full entitlement under the two-year contract with News International. The remainder was paid in instalments until the end of 2007.

In addition, it is reported that the compromise agreement allowed Coulson to keep his company car and enjoy work benefits, for example health care, for three years after his resignation.

A compromise agreement is a contractual agreement between an employer and an employee that is drawn up when the employee’s employment is to be terminated. Under the agreement, the employee is given a financial settlement in return for agreeing not to pursue an action against their employer, such as unfair dismissal.

The employee must have independent legal advice from an employment solicitor to ensure they are not giving up their right to legal action without suitable compensation. The employment solicitor must also sign the agreement.

Usually a compromise agreement will also include a confidentiality clause that prevents one or both parties from discussing the existence of the agreement or what’s in it. This may be the reason why senior Conservative party members have allegedly said none of the Party managers knew that Coulson was receiving money from News International when he was taken on as communications director.

Coulson was arrested in July 2011 when more evidence of criminality at the News of the World came to light. He had resigned as the Prime Minister’s communications advisor in January 2011.

He has maintained that he did not know anything about phone hacking activity while he was at the News of the World; however, a letter from Goodman that was written in March 2007 and disclosed last month by the parliamentary committee in charge of the phone hacking inquiry, stated that phone hacking was routinely discussed in the News of the World’s editorial conference.

For more advice on compromise agreements, you can call Job Justice free today. We work with recommended employment solicitors throughout the UK.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Top horse trainer unlawfully made pregnant employee redundant

A former employee of the successful race horse trainer, John Gosden, was unlawfully selected for redundancy, an employment tribunal has found.

Julia Bocan, 28, took her former employer to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy after she was made redundant one month after colleagues found out she was pregnant.

Miss Bocan found out she was pregnant in January 2010. In February, she told colleagues she was expecting during a hen party. The next month she was made redundant by John Gosden Racing, Mr Gosden’s company.

She told the tribunal that Mr Gosden had deliberately created a staff scoring system that would score her the lowest, therefore giving him a legitimate reason to dismiss her from her role as head lad.

Her lawyer said the system was “haphazard” and had not been subject to consultation, as is necessary in redundancy processes in order for them to be fair.

Mr Gosden said that staff scoring system was introduced after he decided that savings needed to be made. He said Miss Boscan was selected because her German horse training qualifications were held in less esteem than those gained in the UK. In addition, he said she was less experienced than the other woman who was employed in the same role.

The employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, found that Mr Gosden had unlawfully selected Miss Bocan for redundancy. Judge Martin Warren said: “It appears the selection criteria adopted were to ensure Miss Bocan would be the person who would score the least.”

However, the tribunal threw out Miss Bocan’s claims of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.

Mr Gosden said he was “not happy” with the employment tribunal’s ruling on Miss Bocan’s redundancy, but that he was “very pleased” the sex discrimination claim was thrown out. He said he was pleased to say that after thirty years as an employer, this was his first time in an employment tribunal.

Miss Bocan is entitled to compensation from Mr Gosden, which will be set at a later date.

For legal advice on redundancy selection, unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, call Job Justice today. We can find the right local employment solicitor for your needs, whether you are an employee facing these issues, or an employer deciding policy or being taken to an employment tribunal.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Temp industry to suffer from new regulations

The use of ‘temps’ in offices up and down the country will noticeably diminish towards the end of 2011 as businesses stop hiring them ahead of new rules coming into force, say several employers’ groups.

The warning comes after unpublished research conducted by a leading business group shows one in five employers plans to stop using temporary workers altogether in order to avoid costly legislation coming into force on 1 October 2011.

The legislation will give temporary workers the right to the same pay and working conditions as permanent staff after they have been in the job for just 12 weeks.

Temps have long been used in the UK’s workplaces as a handy way of filling a gap in the workforce on a temporary basis. Temps are often brought in to cover employees on maternity and paternity leave, or those on sick leave. In addition, they can be called in to cover a position during sabbaticals or lengthy recruitment processes.

Temps, or agency workers as they are also known, do have the same statutory employment rights as permanent employees in their temporary place of work. For example, they are protected by anti-discrimination legislation, are entitled to the national minimum wage, paid holiday, rest breaks and limits on working times, and protection under the health and safety in the workplace laws.

However, they have not necessarily been entitled to the same benefits as their permanent co-workers, unless this is specified in their contract.

The new legislation being introduced in October this year will ensure the UK’s 1.3 million temporary workers are entitled to the same level of pay as their full-time counterparts and that they receive the same benefits, such as the same rate of holiday pay. Pregnant agency workers will also be entitled to paid time off to attend medical appointments and antenatal classes.

The changes are being implemented as the result of a piece of EU legislation, by which the UK must abide.

However, although the new regulations are intended to give temporary workers more rights in the workplace, it may inadvertently cause them to end up without a workplace at all.

Employers’ groups are arguing that the legislation will be expensive for employers and therefore fewer will be hiring temps in their workplaces. This could lead to an increase in unemployment during a time when the Government is urging the private sector to reduce unemployment and kick-start the economy.

Employers’ groups who have warned over the effects of the new rules include the manufacturers’ body EEF, the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), and the Institute of Directors (IoD).

David Frost, the director general of the BCC, said: "Many firms tell us that the new directive will mean they will use fewer agency workers. Since businesses use temporary workers to improve the flexibility of their workforce and to cover any short-term periods of increased demand or staff absence, it is reasonable to assume these jobs will be lost and productivity hit."

For more information on the changes to temporary worker regulations, you should speak to an expert employment solicitor. Job Justice works with employment solicitors throughout the UK and can recommend a local expert who can assist you with the transition in October 2011.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

NHS staff must ‘blow the whistle’, say MPs

MPs have warned that doctors, nurses and midwives must report their concerns about their colleagues, known as ‘whistle-blowing’, or face their failure to report being investigated instead.

The warning came from the cross-party health select committee and was directed at the regulators. The MPs told the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that they must do more to warn NHS staff of their obligation to report their concerns.

The committee said this was important as many doctors, nurses and midwives are at a higher risk of being investigated for failure to report than they are of being investigated for their own poor performance.

The GMC said it recognises that it must do more in this area and said that it is committed to doing so. It reported that in the past five years it has investigated 80 doctors for failing to report their concerns about fellow NHS staff.

The committee chairman, the Conservative MP Stephen Dorrell, said: "If there are doctors or nurses who unreasonably fail to report serious concerns, they should be held to account.”

However, he acknowledged that sometimes NHS staff face disciplinary action for whistle-blowing.

Dorrell said: "There have been examples of people raising concerns, and then facing inappropriate or heavy-handed action from their employer.

"We intend to follow up and to examine what is appropriate and what isn't, in terms of how employers respond."

Peter Walsh, from the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) said: "Many whistle-blowers are affected by threats and bullying. They lack independent help and support.

"If there are doctors or nurses who unreasonably fail to report serious concerns, they should be held to account.

"However, the management who make it so difficult for staff to raise concerns must also be held to account."

The GMC is currently conducting an investigation into doctors at Stafford Hospital. Although their own practice is not being questioned, they are being scrutinised for their failure to report colleagues about whom they had concerns.

In order to allay fears of potential whistle-blowers, the committee did conduct a consultation into the strengthening of safeguards for whistle-blowers, which concluded in January 2012. The report is yet to be published.

For legal advice on whistle-blowing and your rights, or if you are an employer and you want to know how you should approach this, contact Job Justice today. We work with local employment solicitors throughout the UK and we can find the right one for you or your business/organisation.

Monday, 18 July 2011

‘Nutty professor’ hired in the Apprentice final

Another year, another series of classic television comes to an end. The latest person to have emerged as winner from a motley crew of contestants is 31-year-old ‘nice guy’ and inventor, Tom Pellereau.

We’ve had eight weeks of absolutely brilliant lines, such as Margaret Mountford asking smooth-talking Irishman Jim "What would you like to tell me about yourself? And try to say it without using clich├ęs?” followed by his reply: “I'm exactly what it says on the tin”. Oh dear.

We’ve enjoyed some rage-inducing decisions by the contestants and some great board-room backstabbing.

But it all ended yesterday when Sir Alan Sugar told Pellereau “You’re hired”.

The inventor of the curved nail file impressed Sir Alan with his story about his determination to get his invention noticed in the States. He managed to personally hand the curved nail file to Walmat’s buyer in the USA. Pellereau’s business plan for selling back-ache healing office chairs was less impressive as he managed to forget to include the word ‘chair’. Lord Sugar however, was more impressed with his proven record of selling.

Although, it has to be stressed, not Pellereau’s record of selling on the actual show. The winner had so far been the show’s serial loser, losing all but three of the tasks. Runner-up Helen Milligan had won 11 out of 12 tasks in comparison.

She may have been victorious if not for her horribly outdated business plan idea of a concierge service.

Unlike the previous six winners of the Apprentice, Pellereau will not be getting a job in Sir Alan’s vast corporation. Instead he will be handed £250,000 cash as in investment from Sir Alan and the pair will go into business together.

Sir Alan said: “I am a product man in my heart. I’ve made products and sold them to retailers, that’s in my blood and that’s what Tom is all about. It’s just a gut feeling and I’ve done a lot of things in my life on gut feeling.”

Pellereau said the decision to hire him over Helen left him stunned. He said: “I was shocked and almost thought Lord Sugar would take it away or change his mind.

“One of the reasons I think I have done well is because I lost a lot and people like losers. Now that I am the winner, are people going to like the ideas that I bring out? I hope so, but that is a very real fear.

“Lord Sugar has taken a punt on me and now it is time to shine.”

Thursday, 14 July 2011

“Try something new today and pay us a decent wage” say Sainsbury’s staff

Checkout staff from supermarket giant Sainsbury’s staged a protest about their wages yesterday outside the company’s central London headquarters.

The supermarket chain was holding its 2011 Annual General Meeting on 13 July while its staff protested outside waving slogans aimed at the group’s chief executive, Justin King, who earns £3.2m a year in salary and bonuses.

The checkout staff are angry that their pay has been frozen at the current minimum of £6.31 an hour, despite the company reporting a profit of £665m for the last year.

Their union Unite is calling for Sainsbury’s to increase their minimum wage to £8.30 for staff in London and £7.20 for those outside.

Jennie Formby, national officer of Unite, said: "It is only right that the dedicated workforce, many of whom are female and work part-time for family reasons, who form the backbone of this company are given a fair pay settlement which reflects the outstanding performance of Sainsbury's."

The company is failing to pay staff fairly when compared to its main rival, Tesco. Tesco pays its staff a minimum of £7 per hour.

One of the protesters, Debbie Walker, is paid £6.71 an hour and has been with the company for 15 years. She travelled from Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool, to join the protest. She said: "I don't really have enough money to live on. I get paid just 40p more than my daughter, who only started this year. What's that for loyalty?"

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said that only a “small proportion” of those who were paid “above the market rate” were having their pay frozen.

Justin King said the company pays it staff “absolutely competitive wages” and is “very proud” of its competitive pay record.

For more information on the law relating to pay, contact Job Justice today and we can find the right solicitor for you.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Can ex-News of the World journalists sue their former employer?

Employment law specialists have offered a ray of hope to ex-News of the World journalists who may be worried about getting another job within the media because of their employer’s involvement in the phone-hacking scandal, which by all accounts is due to continue, both with further revelations and public inquiries, for quite some time.

A House of Lords judgement in 1997 established that, in principle, employees can sue their former employers for damages if they struggle to find further employment because of their employer’s damaged reputation.

The court’s judgement in the Malik v Bank of Credit and Commerce International case set the precedent for employees to sue their employers if their corrupt conduct has made it difficult to find a job within the same industry.

News of the World journalists who are worried that they will be unable to find a job because they’ll be tarred with the same brush as News International, Rupert Murdoch’s company that owned the now defunct newspaper.

The City of London law firm, Silverman Sherliker, has offered its services to the former News of the World employees who are concerned that the allegations of phone hacking will diminish their professional reputations, according to the Financial Times.

The law firm said: "News of the World employees are... distressed about the potential long-term career damage that they may suffer by being... unjustly tainted by the acts of others”.

Bringing a claim for damaged reputation is difficult and therefore such actions are rare. However, in the House of Lords judgement, the judge did say that the "difficulties of proof cannot alter the legal principles which permit, in appropriate cases, such claims for financial loss caused by breach of contract being put forward for consideration”.

The legal action would concern the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence between the two parties in an employment relationship. It is possible to argue that by damaging an employee’s professional reputation through association with the disgraced employer can be a breach of this implied duty.

Employment law experts could be giving News International cause to consider just how many ex-News of the World journalists will be re-employed elsewhere in the giant media corporation, in order to avoid being sued by them for damages.

Job Justice works with specialist employment solicitors throughout the UK. If you have been affected by this issue, or any employment issue, please get in touch today. We can help you find the right employment solicitor for your needs.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Driven out for not wearing make-up, says Harrods sale assistant

Melanie Stark, 24, has resigned from her position as sales assistant in the HMV section of London’s Harrods department store after her managers told her she had to wear makeup if she wanted to continue to work there.

Miss Stark, who scored 94% in a mystery shop, which is an undercover assessment by management to see how staff perform, said she was “exhausted, stressed and upset” by her on-going battle with the famous store.

Harrods has a strict uniform policy for both men and women. The section for “ladies” calls for “timeless, sophisticated elegance”. The section on make-up says: "Full makeup at all time: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all time and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a 'washing out' effect)."

Miss Stark had worked for Harrods for five years, three of which were part time while she completed her philosophy, religion and ethic degree at King’s College London. She was handed a copy of the dress code along with her contract, but she did not wear make-up to work and she was not challenged on this until August 2010.

A senior manager who was conducting a floor walk sent her home after she refused to put on make-up at work. The next day she was told to work in the stock room and was kept out of sight.

Miss Stark was offered a make-up consultation to ‘see what you look like with makeup'.

In a letter to Harrods at the time, Miss Stark said: "To be told that one's face is inadequate is extremely degrading."

She said: "I was appalled. It was insulting. Basically, it was implying it would be an improvement. I don't understand how they think it is OK to say that."

The matter appeared to settle down with no further issue being made until three weeks ago when a new floor manager said: “Girls. I want you to be made up.” She was briefly sent to the Bayswater HMV store while Harrods thought of a solution but Miss Stark had already decided to resign rather than go through the same treatment again.

She said: "Make up can change your features completely, especially if I was to wear all of what they were asking. I would look like a different person to me. And I never chose to look like that."

A legal expert with Equal Justice solicitors, Lawrence Davies, said that she may have a claim under the Equalities Act 2010: "On the facts, she performed her role well for five years without makeup, so it is clearly not a valid prerequisite for her role."

Another solicitor, Clare Murray from the law firm CM Murray, said she may have grounds to sue the department store in an employment tribunal for sex discrimination.

If you’ve been in a similar situation to Miss Stark and want some legal advice about your position, get in touch with Job Justice today. We can assess your situation and recommend a local employment solicitor who is right for you.