HR News, Personnel, Management, Employment, Employers and Business News

The latest HR and employment news from TeamHR. Breaking news stories are added every week to help keep you and your business up to date with the latest breaking news in employment, employment law, personnel management and HR.

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Week commencing 27/7/2009

Week commencing 20/7/2009

Week commencing 13/7/2009

Week commencing 06/7/2009

Week commencing 29/6/2009

Week commencing 22/6/2009

Another decision confirming the right to Legal Representation at an Internal Disciplinary Hearing (Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Trust).

Though its decision in Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Trust, the Court of Appeal has determined that:

The second of these points has significant implications for all public sector workers in particular, and is consistent with the decision in R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School reached in the High Court earlier this year.
Click here if you want to know more about this latest case.

CIPD's annual survey shows overall fall in absence rates.

Overall levels of workplace absence have dropped from an average of eight days to 7.4 days per annum; the average figure would be even lower if it were not for public sector absence levels.

According to the CIPD's latest Absence Management Survey, in which more than 600 employers took part, public sector workers now take 3.3 days more sickness leave than private sector workers. Last year the gap was 2.6 days. The figure has to be treated with some degree of caution because the public sector is more likely to record absence levels. The CIPD reports that the public sector is more likely to provide leave for family circumstances provide access to occupational health services, counselling services and physiotherapy. But that the public sector is less likely, than the private sector, to discipline or dismiss employees for absence-related reasons.

The average cost of employee absence across all sectors is estimated to be £692 per employee per year. These costs are estimated to be higher in the public sector (£784) and lower in the private sector (£666), although the manufacturing and production sectors have an absence cost level similar to that of the public sector (£754).

Reasons suggested for the overall drop in absence levels include 40% of respondents recording "a recent increased their focus on reducing absence levels in response to the recession". More than half (56%) of the organisations taking part in the absence survey had made redundancies in the last 12 months and of these 40% use absence data as one of the criteria for redundancy selection. It is possible therefore that employee concerns about job security may also have contributed to the lower levels of absence.
Find out more here.

Employment Tribunal Decision, Sikh PC wins Metropolitan Police discrimination tribunal case (Grewal v Metropolitan Police).

An Employment Tribunal has found the Metropolitan Police guilty of race and religious discrimination during a Sikh police officer's training. The Claimant is set to be awarded a payout for hurt feelings.
Find out more here.

Employment Tribunal Decision, council worker wins £66,000 for unfair and wrongful dismissal (Mills v Mid Sussex).

Roger Mills, of East Grinstead, has won £66,000 in compensation from Mid Sussex Council for unfair and wrongful dismissal. Mr. Mills, who had worked for the council for 14 years, came under scrutiny when his employer suspected he was spending time at home when he should have been working. His field-based job involved supervising street cleaning and dealing with reports of fly tipping and abandoned cars. He was given permission to complete his paperwork from home in 1997 so his desk could be used by another employee.

The Council hired a private detective to gather evidence and after 4 months of observation by the private detectives, Mr. Mills was accused of spending time at home during his working hours and sacked for gross misconduct. At Tribunal, Mr. Mills explained that for a long time he had an arrangement whereby he was able to work from home.

The Employment Tribunal concluded that the surveillance of Mr Mills had been disproportionate and had been breach of his right to privacy for a number of reasons including: the initial suspicion being whimsical; when surveillance being conducted against a background of complete failure by the Council to engage with or manage Mr. Mills; that instead of speaking to Mr. Mills the Council chose to have him secretly followed; that the home of Mr. Mills was watched not only during work hours but outside his work hours. The Employment Tribunal expressed puzzlement as to why Mr Mills' clear evidence at both the dismissal and appeal hearing, that his working from home arrangement had been sanctioned by his previous manager, was simply ignored or dismissed out of hand.

The case follows previous criticism of councils over their use of anti-terror-style surveillance powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This has included often much publicised use of snoopers to check up on litter louts, dog foulers and parents when they apply for school places.

The Council is standing by the decision to sack Mr. Mills, expressing disappointment with the Employment Tribunal's decision.

More UK factories 'freeze pay'.

EEF (engineering and manufacturing support & employment advice for business) says that according to its pay data, 66% of employers suspended pay increases in the three months to June 2009. Workers also saw historically low levels of average pay settlements.

The EEF's July Pay Bulletin was based on information from 240 pay settlements covering 55,405 employees in the UK. Monthly pay settlement levels for May 2009 and June 2009 were below 0.5% and the EEF anticipates even lower pay settlements going forward.

TeamHR said, "The first part of the year for us has been characterised by a willingness on the part of employers and employees to find alternatives to redundancy. We've worked with companies to introduce a shorter working week, or reduce wages to enable firms to survive. For some there has been no alternative to redundancies. The pundits tell us the worst of the recession may now be over, let's hope they are right. Certainly the findings reported by the EEF are consistent with our picture of the UK in the current recession particularly in the manufacturing, hospitality and building sectors and those in the supply chain to these sectors."
More information.

Bullied Female City Lawyer claiming £12m.

A former City Lawyer (Switalski v F&C Asset Management) is awaiting news of damages to be awarded in her favour after a tribunal hearing review upheld a ruling that she was a victim of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.

Ms Switalski, 52, is claiming compensation of £12m from F&C Assets Management having won her employment tribunal claim. The Central London tribunal heard that her manager, on joining the firm, started to question her flexible working hours, holidays and expenses. It was said he became "fixated" with her working hours, which were designed to give her more time with her family, and checked up on her via colleagues, despite her hitting her performance targets. Mrs Switalski has four children, including a son with cerebral palsy and another with Asperger's syndrome. The tribunal heard Mrs Switalski's deputy was chosen, instead of her, to secure a hedge fund; she was also overlooked for management roles. Her lawyer said a male colleague, who also had children with special needs, was allowed to work from home to care for them.

TeamHR said, "Setting aside headline grabbing speculation as to the likely compensatory award in this case, the wake-up call for employers here, once again, is that achievement of a work-life balance, and consistency of treatment between men and women employees, are reasonable expectations, that will be supported at Tribunal, of employees in the workplace. The work-place today is very diverse, a multitude of responsibilities for dependents will be found within any organisation and employers are expected to adopt a fair and reasonable approach in considering how they might accommodate (flexible working) the practical needs of employees to enable them to combine work and home commitments. It's also about ensuring that people don't find themselves being over-looked for promotion or other opportunities because of their flexible working needs or flexible working arrangements. The days of senior and key jobs having to be "full time" and "all hours" only are long gone; employers must focus on genuine requirements and be prepared to challenge the status quo when it comes to aspects of a job that might, at best, be unnecessary, simply a question of habit, "it's always been like that", or, at worst, unlawfully directly (direct sex discrimination) or indirectly (indirect sex discrimination)discriminatory."
More information.

Proposal that retirement at 65 should be scrapped.

Readers may recall the ruling, in March 2009, by the European Court of Justice in the long running Heyday test case that forced retirement at 65 can be justified under European law only if it is a 'proportionate' means of achieving a legitimate employment policy. The case was started by Age Concern backed group Heyday in 2006 when it challenged mandatory retirement ages.

However, the Work and Pensions Committee has said that the default retirement age, which allows employers to compulsorily retire employees at the age of 65, should be removed from the Equality Bill. The Committee summarised evidence from the CBI and Help the Aged in its report, "The Equality Bill: how disability equality fits within a single Equality Act". The report concludes that in light of the European Court of Justice ruling in Heyday, the government should scrap the default retirement age; that the regulation contradicts the government's wider social policy and labour market objectives to raise the average retirement age and allow people to continue to work and save for their retirement.

The High Court is due to hear the Heyday case in mid July 2009 and the Committee says that even if the High Court decides the retirement age can be objectively justified 'it seems inevitable that [the regulations] will be interpreted in a way that limits the reasons employers can rely on to justify direct discrimination.
More information available from: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmworpen/158/158i.pdf

House of Lords disability ruling.
The House of Lords has held that people with a physical or mental condition that varies in severity should be termed disabled if it is likely their condition will become severe again in the future.

This further extends the scope of the term 'disability'.
The case concerned Elizabeth Boyle who has worked at SCA Packaging for 32 years. After developing vocal nodules she managed the illness through speech therapy and speaking very quietly. She took legal action nine years ago when partitions near her desk were removed, even though she objected and her surgeon advised against it. The company argued Mrs Boyle was not disabled as her condition no longer had an adverse effect on her life.

This decision by the House of Lords extended the definition of disability to afford protection to those whose disability might be invisible, in remission and/or controlled by medication, or as in this particular case, by the set-up of the physical working environment (which had enabled the individual to speak quietly whilst working).
The House of Lords has held that people with a physical or mental condition that varies in severity should be termed disabled if it is likely their condition will become severe again in the future.
More information available here.

Weekly working time limits for doctors in training will reduce to 48 hours on 1 August 2009.
Weekly working time limits for doctors in training will reduce to 48 hours on 1 August 2009. With effect from 1st August 2009 the working time limit for doctors in training will be reduced from 56 hours per week to 48 hours per week (The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2003 amend the Working Time Regulations 1998).
More information available here.

Employers will NO longer be able to include tips as part of the minimum wage payment from 1 October 2009.
With effect from 1st October 2009 it will be unlawful for employers to use tips, service charges and gratuities to top up staff pay in order to meet the national minimum wage.
More information available here.

National Minimum Wage rises from £5.73 per hour to £5.80 per hour; and the development rate from £4.77 per hour to £4.83 per hour; and the rate for workers aged 16 to 17 years increases from £3.53 to £3.57 per hour on 1st October 2009.
On 1st October 2009 the main rate rises from £5.73 per hour to £5.80 per hour; the development rate from £4.77 per hour to £4.83 per hour; the rate for workers aged 16 to 17 years increases from £3.53 to £3.57 per hour.
On 1st October 2009 classes of persons who do not qualify for the national minimum wage are specified.
On 1st October 2009 the day value of the accommodation amount that can be taken into account where an employer provides an employee with housing increases from £4.46 to £4.51.
More information available here.

Ruling on holiday pay accrual during long terms sickness absence (Stringer v HRMC).
More information available here.