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.