Wed 05 Jun 2019

Employment law in the news - May 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. 

We start this month with the news that the Equality and Human Rights Commission have named and shamed three organisations that have failed to report their gender pay gap information on time for the second year in a row.  The organisations in question are Typhoo Tea Ltd, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Ltd and Northern Automotive Systems Ltd.  Statutory investigations will begin looking at whether the companies are breaking the law by failing to publish the information.  If so and the companies do not co-operate they may end up in court with the risk of an unlimited fine.  But will the naming and shaming influence consumer purchases.

Unfortunately the prevalence of LGBT discrimination has been clear to see from the amount of media coverage of it in recent weeks.  A survey polled by the TUC suggests that more than two thirds of LGBT people in the UK have been sexually harassed at work.  The UK Government have indicated they intend to consult on strengthening and clarifying third-party harassment laws as well as ensuring employers fully understand their legal responsibility to protect staff. We have also seen another example of the conflict between religious beliefs and LGBT views with legal action being taken by a Christian secondary school assistant after her dismissal for posting an online petition against LGBT issues being taught at her son's primary school. 

On an entirely separate note, would you tip a colleague? There has reportedly been a big increase in schemes where employees are given a budget to tip each other small amounts of money for good work.  Meant as a way of incentivising staff it does seem to be a practice which would need to be monitored to prevent employees simply agreeing to tip each other - is an extra few pounds worth the risk of cliques and divisiveness?

The Wellcome Trust very publicly announced they were thinking of changing from a five to a four day week with no loss of pay for employees.  Having then very publicly decided against it their policy director has explained why with reasons seemingly being largely practical rather than financial with concerns about messing up childcare or other arrangements and disruption to core business.  Despite that more and more companies continue to look at 4 day weeks with insurance provider Simply Business  trialling the reduction of hours in their call centres. They hopes the move will improve employee wellness in the call centres, as well as meet the 20% increase in productivity required to prevent business performance suffering.

If you are seeking a better work-life balance then it appears Stockholm is the place to be.  In a recent HSBC survey Sweden was ranked best in the world for work life balance and Stockholm is actively marketed as a destination for starting a family while maintaining a high level career.  Most companies allow flexi-time and employees have a legal right to take the day off to look after a sick child, with the state reimbursing them for 80% of any lost salary.

If research from think tank. Autonomy is correct then all of Europe may soon have to reduce their working hours in efforts to address the climate emergency.  The research suggests workers will need to move to a nine-hour week to keep the UK on track to avoid climate heating unless there is a radical decarbonising of the economy.

Veganism is also being promoted as a way of reducing CO2 emissions, yet half of UK  vegans feel they have been discriminated against at work.  However, this may change if an employment tribunal find that veganism is a protected belief following a claim by a vegan that he was dismissed from his job on account of his vegan beliefs.  Although the employer conceded the point that veganism is a protected belief, unusually the employment tribunal still wished to consider it and a hearing is scheduled for October.

A study carried out in Germany has concluded that  women's brains work better in warmer offices while men perform better in cooler temperatures.  As the increase in women's performance was significantly larger than the decrease in male performance there is a strong productivity based argument for turning up the heat.

And finally, a shining example of how to deal with a genuine (but costly) mistake in the workplace. Two lucky diners in a restaurant in Manchester were treated to a  £4,500 bottle of wine after their waiter served them the wrong bottle.  The employer's response? A tweet saying "To the member of staff who accidently gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway".

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