Fri 04 Jan 2019

Employment law in the news - January 2019

In our regular slot we look at the key cases and other employment law issues that have made the news headlines over the past few weeks.

A study by The Sutton Trust called Pay as you go? Internship pay, quality and access in the graduate jobs market has found that that there is substantial confusion on the law as it applies to unpaid internships.  Almost half of graduates (47%) though unpaid internships were "legal in most situations" or weren't sure, and up to 50% of employers incorrectly thought a scenario where an intern was being paid less than the minimum wage was legal.  The study recommends that the Government take a number of actions aimed at clarifying the law including banning unpaid internships of more than four weeks in length. Meanwhile, BIS has update national minimum wage guidance to include unpaid work trials.  You can read the guidance at the Government website.

The law on discrimination based on religion and belief is constantly progressing with numerous attempts to persuade tribunals that philosophical belief can include anything from a belief mediums can communicate with the dead (successful) to membership of the BNP (unsuccessful).  The most recent case - due to be heard in early 2019 - relates to ethical veganism.  With the claimant saying that veganism is a belief that affects every single aspect of his life he may well  have a chance of success - watch this space.

One of the issues regularly reported on in 2018 was the increasing use of AI in the workplace, but a group of Amazon workers have found out that job losses are not the only risk when it comes to  robotic workmates.  It might, at first, sound like a very irresponsible human prank but it transpires that 24 workers in a New Jersey warehouse were hospitalised after a robot set off bear repellent

A recent survey carried about by Saga Populus on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has found that older workers want more flexibility just as much as the younger generation.  Presented in the form of an excel spreadsheet (admittedly not making for enjoyable reading) the survey showed 78% of older workers wanted employers to offer flexible working hours, 73% wanted part time roles and 63% wanted retraining schemes to help workers with new skills and technology.  Ironically only 33% wanted employers to be required to have a diverse age mix in their workforce.

ACAS have published new research shining a light on attitudes towards reporting harassment at work one year on from #MeToo.   The research,  Sexual harassment in the British workplace We all know it's wrong, so why is it so difficult to stop? finds that while many workers feel their employers are doing enough, few of them would actually report serious harassment to their line managers.  Only one in four workers agree that international media coverage has helped improve their workplace culture.

Meanwhile accountancy firm Deloitte is reported as having fired 20 partners in recent years over sexual misconduct while KPMG have allegedly had 7 partners leave after "inappropriate behaviour".  While this is a step in the right direction, Bloomberg have recently reported that #MeToo has led some workers in the US to adopt the "Pence rule" avoiding women completely in the business context - something which potentially leads to lost opportunities for career advancement for the women involved thus subjecting them to a different from of sex discrimination.

New research has shown that 35% of workers continue to answer work emails or conduct work tasks on their personal mobile phones when they get home from work.  While that is an issue when it comes to workplace wellbeing and work/life balance it also risks breaches of GDPR.  The legislation means business must ensure data stored on employees' mobile phones is as secure as anything held on the businesses databases and servers.

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