As a business owner, you will be faced with a varying degree of issues throughout your time. This can range from common issues businesses face such as complications with money, stock or the services provided. However, businesses can also face internal issues, especially when it comes to employment.

When you employ a worker, you cannot guarantee that there will be no problems along the road. Oftentimes, a business can be faced with issues regarding employment law and may need a qualified representative to safeguard their business.

The Wilkes Partnership are a leading employment lawyer based in Birmingham and Solihull. We are able to provide businesses with honest advice and reputable services to ensure the protection and safeguarding of their business when faced with an employment problem.

Why Seek Help from an Employment Lawyer?

Before we can explain in detail how we can help to safeguard businesses, it is important to understand why an employment lawyer is needed in certain circumstances. Employment issues can be particularly and can hit the heart of an organisation, regardless of the size of the business.

With employment law seeing constant movement, it is a full-time job to keep up to date on all the latest laws and legislation. With a business to run and employees to take care of, it is no wonder that many businesses aren’t able to keep up with all the latest developments. 

When smaller workplace issues turn into intense disputes, businesses must rely on the help of specialised employment lawyers to ensure the best possible outcome for the business. Without this specialist help, the business’s reputation may be damaged by the dispute.

How Can We Help?

As a business, you can be faced with a variety of problems and challenges regarding your employees and employment law. Luckily, The Wilkes Partnership have spent years becoming experts in all areas of employment law, offering both start-up businesses and established enterprises with the services they need to handle all problems that come their way.

As qualified employment lawyers, we can represent you and your business in court. It is crucial that you are accurately represented by an employment lawyer who not only has experience in employment law but also understands your business and unique case. 

The areas that we can cover as part of our services include:

  • Draft/review employment contracts and policies
  • Draft settlement agreements
  • Defend Employment Tribunal claims
  • Defend Court claims
  • Deal with TUPE questions
  • Handle disciplinary action
  • Deal with redundancy/restructure programmes
  • Deal with equality and diversity issues
  • Deal with maternity/family friendly rights
  • Draft/enforce confidentiality/restrictive covenant provisions
  • Obtain injunctions against current or former employees
  • Defend injunction actions
  • Provide bespoke employment law training to staff/managers
  • Deal with any other employment matter
  • Arrange work visas and employment contracts for employees from overseas

We can advise on singular, isolated issues as well as work with you on a long term basis to ensure you’re assisted with all aspects of employment. With so many common issues arising in employment, it is important that you have the necessary help to ensure the best possible outcome for you as a manager and your business overall.

Not only can you rely on our services to resolve individual workplace disputes, but you can also employ us for continuous HR support within your business. When a business experiences unprecedented growth, it may cause internal issues with employees.

We can offer you continued support and advice in regards to employment law. This will not only ensure that your staff are getting the correct treatment, but also ensure your business is safeguarded against any incidents in the future. 

What Kind of Businesses Can Use Our Services?

Here at The Wilkes Partnership, we are keen to help businesses in all industries and sectors to resolve their employment issues. For example, we can work with businesses in the following industries:

  • Accountancy firms
  • Automotive
  • Banks
  • Education
  • Finance and credit companies
  • Health services
  • Manufacturing
  • Real estate

This is not an exhaustive list. Our employment law services are available for all kinds of businesses. Simply get in touch with us to discuss your unique and individual circumstances.

Why Choose The Wilkes Partnership?

With so many employment lawyers available today, why should you trust in The Wilkes Partnership to resolve your employment issues? Not only do we have a highly experienced team of employment lawyers, but we also offer extremely competitive rates.

Furthermore, we make a conscious effort to understand your business objectives and pride ourselves as working as an internal part of your team. Whether you choose our services for a one-off case or for continued HR support, we will ensure we provide you with the support you need.

With there being a wide range of experience within the internal team, we can easily advise on all aspects of employment law ranging from common HR issues to more complex cases such as transfers of undertakings, discrimination, restrictive covenants and multi-jurisdictional employee disputes.

By appointing the Wilkes employment team, you will be looked after by an established team of professionals with a reputation for delivering bespoke solutions that meet your objectives. Contact us today for more information. 

On 17 December 2018 the Government published, its proposals to take forward some of the recommendations in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices (the ‘Good Work Plan’).

The Good Work Plan proposed what the Government described as “the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years”. It sets out the Government’s vision for the future of the UK labour market and draws on the four consultations held earlier in 2018.

The Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/731) (the ‘Regulations’) was introduced on 28 March 2019 and will bring into force various commitments set out in the Good Work Plan.

Jas Dubb, Associate Solicitor in our Employment Law Department considers the key proposals under the plan and what effect they may have.

Employment Status

The Government has declared that it will introduce new legislation to clarify the test for obtaining employment status that mirrors modern working practices. That clarification is important. Having ‘employee’ status attracts a considerable amount of legal protection and rights. However, creating a test is likely to be a difficult task. The Government has stated that it will also seek to adjust how the law deals with employee status for tax purposes, with a view of harmonising the law in both areas. No set timetable has been given for these potentially significant proposals for new legislation.

Written Statement of Particulars of Employment

The Employment Rights Act 1996 will be amended to give workers, rather than just employees, the right to:

  • a written Statement of Particulars of employment (i.e. a basic Contract of Employment); and
  • bring a tribunal claim against their employer for failure to provide such particulars.

The changes will apply to workers who start work for an employer on or after 6 April 2020.

Financial penalties

The Regulations will amend the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 to increase the maximum level of penalty an Employment Tribunal may order in respect of an employer’s aggravated breach of employment law from £5,000 to £20,000. The increase will apply in respect of breaches of workers’ rights that take place on or after 6 April 2019.

 Information and consultation of employees

The Regulations will amend the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/3426) to lower the percentage required for a valid employee request for the employer to negotiate an agreement on informing and consulting its employees. The threshold will be lowered from 10% to 2% of the total number of employees employed by the employer, subject to there being a minimum of 15 employees.  The change will come into force on 6 April 2020.

Jas Dubb comments, “These proposed changes serve as a useful reminder to employers of the importance of having employment documentation and policies in place which set out clear expectations, and in line with legal obligations. It is evident that more needs to be done in order to protect employees and prevent employee / employer disputes”.

We are currently offering all businesses a Free Employment Law Health which consists of a no obligation review of your existing employment contracts and staff handbooks.

Please contact us if you would like us to review your employment documentation and structure them in line with legislative requirements, to avoid employment issues from arising.

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Jas Dubb on 0121 733 5929 or via email at jdubb@wilkes.co.uk. You can also contact any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 or email us at employment@wilkes.co.uk

Whether you’re just starting a new position or you’ve been working in an established company for many years, it is important that you familiarise yourself with your work and employment rights. You may find yourself in a position where you are in discussion with your employer regarding your employment, so you’ll need to be up to scratch on what you are entitled to as an employee.

For example, if you have noticed that your employer is going against basic rights, or you have been denied rights that you are entitled to, it is important to not only raise these with management but also have a clear idea of what you’re talking about, so you can get the best possible outcome.

The Wilkes Partnership are leading suppliers of employment advice services in and around the Birmingham area and are here to offer honest and up to date advice for employees. Keep reading to learn more about the basic rights you are entitled to, as well as any other rights you should be aware of.

Basic Employment Rights

When you start to work for a company, there are some basic working rights that everyone within the company will be entitled to. For example, as an employee, you must have:

  • A contract of employment – this contact should clearly outline certain rights and obligations.
  • Realistic working hours – the maximum amount of working hours is 48 hours per week.
  • Rest breaks at work – you’ll probably be entitled to rest breaks at work, depending on your working hours.
  • Time off work – the law permits you to take time off work for varying circumstances.

These are the first things you should be checking for when you start any new position, regardless of where you choose to work. If a business fails to provide these basic rights, you can either choose to challenge them or simply look for work elsewhere.

Pay

With any job, the pay is an incredibly important factor in your work. Employees will be offered a salary either based on previous experience or to the discretion of the manager.

You have a legal right to a payslip. If you notice any major issues, speak formally with your manager to resolve any issues. You should always check your payslip for any issues that may arise. Look for things such as:

  • Whether you’ve been paid for the number of hours you’ve actually worked
  • If you’ve been paid at the correct rate
  • If you’ve been paid for overtime, commission or bonus
  • Whether you’ve been paid any sick pay, holiday pay or maternity pay that you were expecting
  • If your employer has deducted any money that you weren’t expecting

When you leave a job, you may be owed money for things such as:

  • Holiday pay
  • Redundancy pay
  • Sick pay – if you were off sick in your notice period
  • Maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave pay

Many employees forget to check these basic rights when departing from a position. Ensure you plan an exit review with your employer to discuss if you are entitled to pay for any of the above reasons. 

Most employees are entitled to get paid at least the National Minimum Wage. If you are aged 25 or over, you are entitled to the National Living Wage. If you suspect that your employer is not paying you the correct wage, it is important to get employment advice as soon as possible. 

The current National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage Rates are as follows:

April 2019

  • 25 and over: £8.21
  • 21 to 24: £7.70
  • 18 to 20: £6.16
  • Under 18: £4.35
  • Apprentice: £3.90

Breaks and Holiday Entitlement

If you are an employee who works five days a week, you are entitled to 5.6 weeks (28 days) of paid leave per year. You employer may choose to include public holidays in this total. It is important to use your holiday entitlement, as many companies will not carry this over to the next working year. It is also imperative for your health and wellbeing to take proper breaks from work.

Within the working day, you are also entitled to lunch breaks. By law, you are entitled to a 20-minute rest break if you work more than 6 hours in one shift and additional breaks may be given by your employer. You are not legally entitled to cigarette breaks. 

Sickness

This topic may often cause complications within a workplace, due to companies having their own procedures. However, there are a clear set of legal rules which all employees and employers must follow.

For example, as an employee, you may need time off work due to sickness. You can self-certify your illness until you’ve had 7 days off where you will then need to supply a doctor’s note. You have the right to use your holiday entitlement during your period of sickness.

Your employer may not always offer sick pay, however, the weekly rate of Statutory Sick Pay is £92.05 for up to 28 weeks. All employees are entitled to this by law. It is up to your employer if they have their own sick pay scheme and wish to pay you in full for time off due to sickness.

Parental Rights

If you’re pregnant, you have a range of workplace rights that you are entitled to. This includes:

  • Paid time off for antenatal care
  • Maternity leave
  • Maternity pay or allowance
  • Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal

Your employer must provide these as basic rights and cannot discriminate against you, nor refuse to provide these statutory rights. If you are facing issues with your employer regarding maternity leave and pay, seek employment advice urgently from The Wilkes Partnership. 

If your partner is having a child, you are also entitled to basic rights such as 1-2 weeks of paid paternity leave or shared parental leave and/or pay. Ensure you discuss these with your employer before your child is born.

Do You Have Any Questions Regarding your Workplace Rights?

If you’re having any concerns about your employer’s treatment of you and other members of staff, contact The Wilkes Partnership for employment advice today. With years of experience in the employment sector, we can offer genuine employment advice to ensure the best outcome for our clients.

The Wilkes Partnership, Employment Law Birmingham Solihull Lisa Moore

As a result of Brexit, legislative updates and various high-profile Judgments, a number of interesting developments are expected in the field of employment law during the months ahead.

Lisa Moore, Associate in the Employment team at The Wilkes Partnership, considers some of the key changes for employers to be mindful of in 2017.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting Requirements

All private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 employees as of 5 April 2017 should be preparing to comply with the Government’s new gender pay gap reporting requirements. Employers will need to collect data on the pay differences between male and female employees. This information will then need to be published by employers by 4 April 2018 in a prominent place on their website and on a Government website to be unveiled later this year. It is anticipated that non statutory guidance will be published on these requirements in due course by both the Government and Acas.

 Self-Employed Workers and the “Gig Economy”

The use of apparently self-employed contractors by companies like Uber and Deliveroo as part of the so called “gig economy” has been on the rise in recent years. Much publicity was generated last year when an employment tribunal found Uber drivers to be workers in the case of, Aslam and others v Uber BV and others. Uber has, however, lodged a notice of appeal in response to this decision which has been accepted and is likely to be heard in the summer so there will be further updates to follow in this case.

In February 2017, the Court of Appeal handed down a decision in the case of, Pimlico Plumbers Ltd v Smith which gave further consideration as to the distinction between self-employed contractors and employees. It was held that whilst Mr Smith was not an employee, he was a worker despite appearing from documentation to be in business on his own account, and other relevant factors such as having supplied his own materials, tools and insurance. This finding would entitle Mr Smith to pursue a number of claims against the company, including claims for holiday pay and unlawful deduction of wages. Although it is not yet clear whether they have been granted permission to do so, Pimlico Plumbers had previously indicated that it intended appealing to the Supreme Court.

Separately, the results of three inquiries are expected to be published during 2017 on this topic. Firstly, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee will seek to address the status and rights of agency workers, the self-employed as well as individuals working in the gig economy. Secondly, the Work and Pensions Committee will consider whether the UK welfare system supports those working in the gig economy sufficiently. Finally, the Royal Society of Arts is conducting an independent review of employment practices in the modern economy.

Brexit

The Government has now triggered Article 50 and the process of the United Kingdom leaving the EU has now begun.

As much of the UK’s employment law is influenced by the EU, Brexit will have significant long term implications for the employment law landscape. For instance, changes could be made to holiday entitlement, the Agency Workers Regulations as well as the TUPE regulations. Further clarity is likely to be provided in this respect during the course of the year.

Employment Tribunal Fees

By some estimates, the 2013 increase in employment tribunal fees led to a 70% reduction in the number of employment tribunal claims. Following the increase in tribunal fees, Unison launched a bid to overturn the fee hike arguing that it restricted the access to justice of potential claimants. Unison’s challenge has made its way to the Supreme Court and is due to be heard in the next couple of weeks. In any event, the general consensus amongst employment law practitioners is that tribunal fees are here to stay.

Holiday Pay

It is anticipated that a hearing of the case of, The Sash Window Workshop Ltd and another v King will take place at the European Courts of Justice (“ECJ”) later this year. In this case, the ECJ will consider whether workers should be entitled to carry their holiday over from one year to the next in circumstances where they are unable to use their all of their allowance due to factors outside of their control.

A decision from the Employment Appeal Tribunal is also awaited in the case of, Fulton and another v Bear Scotland to establish whether statutory holiday pay should be included in overtime pay.

Conclusion

Lisa Moore comments: “The above serves as a brief summary of some of the main developments which are expected in 2017. It looks set to be a busy year with a number of other changes being introduced including an apprenticeship levy as of 6 April 2017 – this will require employers that have an annual payroll of more than £3 million to pay a 0.5% levy on their total pay bill. Furthermore, notable decision are also being awaited in cases relating to issues such as whistleblowing, disability discrimination and subject access requests so please do look out for further updates.”

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Lisa Moore or any member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333. 

 

Sarah Begley - The Wilkes Partnership, Employment Solicitor, Birmingham, Solihull

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 which is controlled by insulin and is usually defined as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and type 2, which can be controlled by diet and/or medication. So does this mean type 2 diabetes can be defined as a disability too?

Yes, was the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of, Taylor v Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Ltd.

Sarah Begley of The Wilkes Partnership considers the key points of the decision and what employers need to do in order to ensure they are following correct procedures when identifying an employee with a disability. 

After being dismissed from Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Ltd, Mr Taylor declared he had been disabled for a year before dismissal, due to type 2 diabetes. The Employment tribunal decided the he was not disabled after reviewing two medical reports. Mr Taylor appealed.

The Judge hearing the case on appeal disagreed with the Tribunal’s findings. Type 2 diabetes, as a progressive condition, would amount to a disability even if it did not have a substantial effect at that time, as long as it was likely to result into such a condition where it would affect their ability to carry out normal day to day activities. The EAT remitted the case back to Tribunal to reconsider the issue as the Judge felt that the medical evidence was not clear and had been misinterpreted.

Sarah Begley comments: “This is an interesting and important decision. This case illustrates that employers should be careful not to automatically assume that diabetes and/or other common progressive conditions are not a disability. Each case will be determined its own facts and on this basis it is vital to consider and investigate the substantial effect on the employee’s normal daily activities present and future under The Equality Act 2010 before reaching a decision on whether or not the employee has a disability”.

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Sarah Begley on 0121 733 4312 or via email at sbegley@wilkes.co.uk. You can also contact  any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333.

The Wilkes Partnership, Employment Law Birmingham Solihull

The issue of discriminatory dress codes recently came to public attention when a petition calling for it to be made illegal for employers to require women to wear high heels at work received over 150,000 signatures.

The petitioner was a Ms Nicola Thorp, a temporary receptionist working at PwC, who was sent home without pay when she refused to wear high heels at work.

The House of Commons Petitions and Women & Equalities Committee (“Committee”) conducted a detailed investigation into the topic of dress codes and discrimination, and produced a report in late January 2017. The Committee found that employers, particularly in certain sectors of the economy, implemented discriminatory dress codes that sexualised and exploited young women. It has called for the Government to strengthen the law in this area.

Pam Sidhu, Head of Employment at Wilkes, comments: “Most employers specify some form of dress code for their employees. This will usually be based around legitimate concerns such as health & safety and the projection of a professional image. So long as such dress codes are sensibly drafted and allow for flexibility in certain cases, they should be legally compliant. However, there are circumstances where a dress code can be found to be discriminatory on grounds such as gender, religion or disability. As borne out by the recent report, the Equality Act already gives some protection to employees, but the practical application of the law is sometimes unclear for employees and employers. Also, some employers seem unaware of the implications of the Equality Act.”

As the law currently stands an employer will be guilty of direct discrimination if it has a dress code that is “less favourable” to one gender. For example a tribunal has found a requirement for women to wear low cut tops at work to be discriminatory.

An employer can also be found to be indirectly discriminatory where there is a dress code that applies to everyone in the same way but has a worse effect on some employees than others. Examples include dress codes that restrict the ability of employees to wear items associated with their religious beliefs. In order to protect themselves in these situations, employers will need to be confident they can demonstrate that their dress codes constitute a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate objective (for example, safety in the work place).

The Committee’s investigation found that whilst the rules relating to discriminatory dress codes are clear in principle there is often some difficulty in their practical application. It was noted that there is often uncertainty as to what constitutes less favourable treatment. The example of a requirement for women to wear make-up was identified as being problematic, as conventionally many women wear make-up and therefore less favourable treatment may not be easy to prove.

Significantly, the report commented that the 2013 increase in tribunal fees has caused a substantial reduction in the number of “test cases” making their way through the tribunal system. Consequently, there has only been limited opportunity for the building up of a body of cases that flesh out the law on discrimination in the workplace.

The Committee recommended an increase in the financial penalties applicable to employers who are found to have breached anti-discrimination law, so that employers pay more attention to the law when drafting dress codes. This would also encourage employees who have been discriminated against to bring claims.

It was also suggested that employment tribunals be given the power to award injunctions. The rationale being that it would make it quicker and easier for a claimant to resolve an issue. It is not clear how such injunctions would work in practice

Pam Sidhu further comments: “The report highlights some of the uncertainty in anti-discrimination law surrounding employment dress codes and the need to educate employers. Employers need to be vigilant to ensure they do not inadvertently fall foul of the law. The report also shows that there is now some appetite for changes to the system surrounding employment tribunals in order to encourage more claims.”

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Pam Sidhu or any member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333. 

Lisa Moore, Employment Law, Solicitor, Birmingham, Solihull

On 24 July 2015, the Government launched a consultation as to how termination payments are treated and, during August 2016, released draft legislation outlining its proposed changes.

The Autumn Statement, delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 23 November 2013, served as a reminder of some of the Government’s recommendations.

Currently, where there is a provision in an employee’s contract of employment which allows the employer to terminate his/her employment immediately by making a payment in lieu of notice (PILON),  any such payment will be taxable and subject to national insurance contributions (NICs).

Otherwise, where there is no express provision in the employee’s contract, the position can be more ambiguous.  If an employee’s contract of employment is silent on this issue and there is no discretionary or other right to a PILON, it can be possible in some circumstances for this payment to be treated as damages and paid without any deductions. However, the position in this respect depends on the specific facts of each matter. Accordingly, whether employers can pay notice payments tax free often becomes a point of contention when severance terms are being negotiated.

Notwithstanding the above, at present, employers may be able to pay non-contractual payments in connection with the termination of employment up to a value of £30,000 free from deductions and above this sum, only income tax is payable.

There are also numerous tax exemptions for particular types of payments, including in relation to injury, disability or death, for foreign service relief in relation to employment performed outside the UK, and for the armed forces.

From April 2018, in an attempt to eliminate the confusion which often arises with termination payments, it is intended that the distinction between contractual and non-contractual PILONs will be removed. Accordingly, moving forwards, all PILONs (regardless of the employee’s termination date) will be treated as earnings subject to income tax, employer and employee NICs.

It has also been suggested that payments which an employee would ordinarily receive during their notice period and would normally be taxable (such as bonus payments), will now also be subject to tax under the terms of a settlement agreement.

Furthermore, employers’ NICs will be payable on compensation payments that are above the £30,000 tax free exemption (whereas, currently, termination payments of any value are exempt from NICs).

Finally, it has been proposed that payments for injury to feelings will fall outside the exemption for injury payments (except where this amounts to a psychiatric injury or a recognised medical condition) and foreign service relief, in relation to employment outside of the UK, will be abolished (except in relation to seafarers).

Lisa Moore comments: “The Government initially proposed removing the £30,000 tax-free allowance altogether so, comparatively, the above reforms are likely to be received as welcome news by employees and employers alike. Although the proposals will provide more clarity for employers when formulating settlement terms, this is likely to come at a cost. Employers may well find themselves having to increase termination payments to compensate for making the PILON on a net basis and will have less flexibility when proposing settlement packages.”

If you would like to discuss any issue or query arising from this update please contact Lisa Moore or your usual contact in the Employment team on 0121 233 4333. Alternatively, email us at employmentlaw@wilkes.co.uk.

Christmas Party - Employment Law, Solicitor, Wilkes, Birmingham

The traditional Christmas party is an event that is eagerly anticipated in the majority of workplaces. It can take many forms, in or outside the office premises, during or after work time, informal or formal.

The one thing that is clear, says Pam Sidhu, Head of Employment at the Wilkes Partnership, is that incidents occurring during this time can potentially land the employee and/ or employer in trouble. It is important to remember that employment laws apply even where a party takes place off work premises and outside working hours. Employers could be liable for acts of discrimination, harassment, assault or other unwanted conduct by employees.

Whilst most parties pass with no more than a dodgy dance move or two, careful planning and appropriate communication by employers with their employees should allow for a safe and happy end to the year.

Avoiding Discrimination

The first issue for an employer to consider comes in the planning stage of the party.

Arrangements for the party should be non-discriminatory. If the party is away from office premises, the employer should ensure it has suitable access for disabled staff.

Additionally, staff of all religions should be considered. Some religions do not celebrate Christmas and employees of those religions may not wish to attend the party and should not be pressured to do so or disadvantaged by not participating.

Further, certain religions forbid the drinking of alcohol or the eating of particular foods. Employers therefore need to ensure soft drinks are equally available and the menu options suitably varied where possible, so as to make the event as inclusive as possible. It would be prudent to check any dietary issues with staff before the event.

If there is an over demand for annual leave requests for the day following the party, employers should avoid automatically giving priority to those attending the party.

Acceptable Standards of Behaviour

Drink fuelled behaviour is the root cause of many employment tribunal claims every year. Pam advises that employers should remind employees prior to the party that they are representing the organisation and set the boundaries in terms of what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of standard of behaviour.

Employers should make clear to employees that any misconduct at the party will be deemed to be misconduct at work, highlighting the fact that disciplinary sanctions may follow if any employees are guilty of inappropriate behaviour.

Harassment

Remember that employers may be liable for incidents of harassment that take place at work-related social events and could face tribunal claims.

Whilst the Christmas party has often been viewed as the opportunity to pursue that office crush, if the feelings are not reciprocated then the recipient of that advance may, with some justification, feel that they have been subjected to harassment.

Fundamentally an employer will be vicariously liable for the actions of an employee in this respect, advises Pam. There are, however, simple steps an employer can take to mitigate this risk.

There is no harm, and indeed every benefit, in employers reminding employees of the need to behave and treat each other with respect. An up to date harassment policy, which is brought to the attention of all staff will also help to reduce the risk of harassment occurring and go some way to protect the employer.

Additionally, employers should investigate any complaints they receive promptly.

Absence

Finally there comes the morning after the night before.

Where the Christmas party takes place on a working night, there is always the possibility that employees will “pull a sickie” the next day as a result of over-exuberance.

According to Pam it may be an idea to warn staff in advance that unauthorised absence the day after the Christmas party may result in disciplinary action. To mitigate this risk, employers could encourage employees to book annual leave, subject to maintaining adequate staff levels.

Where an employer has a suspicion that the real reason for unauthorised absence is too much alcohol the night before, they must ensure this is in fact most likely the case before taking any action and apply any sanction consistently in line with other cases.  Failure to do so may result in unsafe disciplinary decisions being made.

Ultimately the Christmas party is about rewarding and thanking your staff for their efforts over the preceding year. Following the basic steps above in advance of the party will only serve to enhance everyone’s enjoyment of it.

If you have any query arising from this update, please contact Pam Sidhu on 0121 233 4333 or psidhu@wilkes.co.uk

Costs update in the Employment Tribunal – Litigant in Person

Costs awarded in the Employment Tribunal are uncommon. Costs awarded against ‘Litigants in Person’ (people who represent themselves) are even more unusual. Despite this, in the recent case of Liddington v 2gether NHS Foundation Trust the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) awarded costs against Ms Liddington (the litigant in person) for failing to give sufficient detail and clarify her claims despite been given several opportunities to provide the evidence requested of her.

Sarah Begley of The Wilkes Partnership considers the key points of the decision and the impact this could have on future Employment Tribunals.

Ms Liddington was a community practitioner working for 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. After making a safeguarding referral in relation to a patient, Ms Liddington complained that she was subjected to a number of detriments by her employer before being dismissed. She brought various complaints as a litigant including; constructive unfair dismissal, religious discrimination and whistleblowing.

Unfortunately, Ms Liddington was unable to give the specifics relating to her complaints namely; the key dates, what was said or done and by whom.

The Employment Tribunal has the discretion to make a costs order where a party has acted unreasonably when issuing or conducting proceedings.

Whilst it was acknowledged that the standard of pleadings expected of a lawyer did not apply to a litigant in person, the Claimant was expected to be able to articulate her complaints in lay person’s terms. Although the tribunal accepted that Ms Liddington was not trying to cause deliberate difficulties and delays, her repeated failure to recall the key details regarding what happened, in the opinion of the EAT, did not meet the low standards expected of a litigant in person entitling the employer to an award of costs against Ms Liddington.

Sarah Begley cautions: “This case serves as a useful reminder of the importance of considering language and formality in conducting proceedings as a ‘Litigant in Person’. Even though expectations of the standard of putting your case is at a lesser level, a failure to provide adequate details can be deemed unreasonable conduct and justify a costs award.”

For advice on any employment related matter and to discuss our Free Employment Health Check please contact Sarah Begley on 0121 733 4312 or sbegley@wilkes.co.uk

More Penalties for Employers of Illegal Workers, Employment Law, Birmingham, Pam Sidhu

As part of its continuing drive to crack down on employers employing illegal workers, the Government announced during the 2016 Budget that it planned to limit the ability of those businesses employing illegal workers to claim Employment Allowance. On 8 November 2016, HM Revenue & Customs published a consultation paper setting out draft regulations that would see this policy implemented.

The Employment Allowance was created in 2014 and entitles most businesses to a reduction in their employers’ National Insurance Contributions of up to £3,000 per year.

The Government is looking to exclude employers of any illegal worker from receiving this allowance. It is proposed that the exclusion will apply from 2018 to those employers who have (i) received a civil penalty from the Home Office for employing illegal workers and (ii) exhausted their appeal rights against the Home Office penalty. Those employers who choose not to pursue an appeal against the civil penalty would also be excluded.

The restriction would apply for the tax year following the year in which the employer exhausts its appeal rights in relation to the civil penalty. As it currently stands, Employment Allowance is claimable only by one company in a corporate group at any one time. If one company within a group were to fall foul of the proposed provisions, all companies within the group would be prevented from claiming the Allowance for the period the restriction takes effect.

The Home Office has estimated that approximately 2000 businesses would be affected by this change. In order to limit their exposure to the provision, businesses must be careful to check the eligibility of all new starters and be confident of the status of existing employees.

Pam Sidhu, Head of Employment at Wilkes comments: “The Government is continuing its crackdown on employers who hire workers who do not have the right to live and work in the UK. Apart from this new development, employers are already subject to fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker they employ, as well as unlimited criminal fines and penalties. It is increasingly important that all employers should be carrying out the appropriate right to work checks on all new hires, even in the case of UK citizens.”

For advice on any employment immigration matter please contact Pam Sidhu on 0121 233 4333 or psidhu@wilkes.co.uk