Increased demand for cyber security roles
Demand for cyber security roles is set to boom this year, following several high-profile cyberattacks, research has found. 81% of businesses predict a “significant” increase in cyber security hires next year.
Cyber security threats have never been more pervasive and with many businesses operating digitally, the risk and responsibility of safeguarding can no longer be incumbent on IT. Several high-profile cyberattacks occurred this year, including at Uber, Equifax, the NHS and Westminster, which has prompted leaders to re-examine their security strategies.
Employment Tribunal claims up 66% since fees are abolished!
Recent statistics on employment tribunals have found that the overall number of claims rose 66% in the three months after fees were abolished in July.
Employment law experts have warned organisations to scrutinise their employment practices in light of the figures which revealed that the tribunals’ outstanding caseload also rose 37% after the Supreme Court found employment tribunal fees unlawful in July.
Following the ruling, the Ministry of Justice “took immediate steps” to stop charging fees for tribunals, and put in place a fee refund scheme for claimants who had paid fees between 2013 and 2017, since the first introduction of such fees.
The number of employments tribunals brought after fees were introduced had dropped by as much as 70% meaning that claims may be gradually approaching pre-fee levels. It is likely that the abolition of fees will lead to a continual rise in the number of claims being made. Employers may face serious reputational consequences if they have neglected their employment practices while fees were in place.
Employers must not underestimate the importance of equipping line managers to handle workplace disputes following the rise in claims. Businesses should be looking at the disciplinary procedures they have in place and how closely these are being followed, to help them resolve disputes in the best way for both the employee and the employer.
121 regularly run disciplinary and grievance workshops, with the next one scheduled for 5th February. Get in touch if you would like to book a place, by contacting Events@121hrsolutions.co.uk
New Year, new staff: Are you hindering diversity with your decisions?
As businesses consider what recruitment needs they have in the New Year, research has found that modern hiring practices are hindering diversity, as 3 out of ten employers have admitted to hiring people ‘just like them’. The study found that employers place significant importance on educational attainment (86%), cultural fit (77%), tastes and leisure pursuits (65%), and even social background (61%) – raising concerns about diversity.
Whilst recruiters are tasked with finding candidates with the right mindset, their own definition of cultural fit can lead to a lack of diversity. Another issue the study pointed out was the ‘degree premium’ with more than half of managers unwilling to take on employees without a degree and train them. This bias has left two-thirds of workers with only school qualifications being left behind in low or semi-skilled employment.
This bias continues through employment, with three in ten employees with no higher education (HE) gaining no access to workplace training to improve their skills, in comparison to 21% of those with an HE qualification. A quarter of respondents reported that colleagues with a perceived “better education” are given better opportunities.
Recent Employment Tribunal ruling – sleep disorder is a disability
An employee with 23 years’ “loyal” service who was sacked a month after telling his employer that he suffered from a sleep breathing disorder was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled.
The Tribunal heard that the employee worked as a warehouse associate for more than two decades until he was dismissed for misconduct in September 2016, after an updated automated quality-control system picked up inaccuracies in his work.
His role involved carrying out a wide range of duties, from driving to picking and packing, and had performed many duties in his years of service for the company, whose business was to distribute and market automobile parts and accessories.
In May 2016, however, the claimant’s driving licence was revoked after he was thought to be suffering from sleep apnoea. He was moved to a different area of work, where he could pick on foot. The company gave him a final written warning one month later, in June 2016.
The employee had received a first verbal warning in December 2015, followed by a written warning in April 2016, after the company introduced a strict points-based error management system to the workplace to reduce picking errors.
The decision to dismiss followed an investigation and disciplinary hearing during which the employee’s medical condition was disregarded as the manager concluded that health issues were not the reason for the high level of errors.
The tribunal accepted that the claimant had been unfairly dismissed.
The judge said that the company failed to take the employee’s length of service into account and that there was no evidence that there was any discussion with the claimant about his condition or conditions, and any impact it might have had on his performance. He concluded that a reasonable employer, given an employee with 23 years’ service, would have considered with an open mind whether there was some alternative work that could be done.
Where does the burden of proof lie in discrimination cases? A recent Court of Appeal case debates this question
According to the Court of Appeal, a claimant in a discrimination case must prove the facts on the inference of discrimination before the burden moves to the respondent.
This case changes the burden of proof of discrimination in employment claims, to the position in place before the Equality Act 2010 came into force. At the point of the Equality Act coming into place, it was said that the “burden of proof” was on the employer to demonstrate that discrimination had NOT occurred, not on the employee to prove that it had. The critical question in this case arose after the judges were asked to reconsider the law on who carries the burden. They found that the change of wording in section 136(2) of the Equality Act 2010 from previous discrimination legislation meant that the burden of proof had changed.
The employee in this case was originally from Nigeria and described himself as black. He was employed as a warehouse operative, initially through an agency. He resigned in October 2012 in response to a repudiatory breach of his employment contract, claiming constructive dismissal, racial discrimination, racial harassment and victimisation.
As some of his complaints dated back to the time when he began employment, the case straddled the date when the Equality Act came into force. This meant the employment tribunal had to consider that Act and the law in place before the Act – ie the Race Relations Act 1976.
After considering the wording in both pieces of legislation, the Court of Appeal’s judgment confirms that there is a burden of proof on the claimant and that the Equality Act 2010, while worded differently from its predecessor legislation, does not change this to place the burden on the employer. This is likely to cause significant impact on discrimination cases waiting to be heard.
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Read our “snow” guidelines here
The rights and responsibilities of employers and employees in handling ‘snow days’ need to be communicated clearly. According to guidelines from the employment advice and conciliation service Acas, unless commute or travel time is itself considered to be ‘working time’, staff have no legal claim to being paid for disruption to services.
However, if an organisation is forced to close its premises at short notice because of unforeseen circumstances such as heavy snowfall – and employees are unable to work as a result of the closure – employers are unable to withhold pay from their staff.
A bad weather policy is a great idea, so everyone knows what to do in bad weather. If there is no policy, the employer needs to clarify how they will deal with non-attendance because of bad weather, and apply that to everyone fairly. Employers should also remember that in the majority of cases, employees cannot be forced to take a day of holiday if they find themselves snowed in. According to government guidelines for travel disruption and work, employers must be able to give sufficient notice before asking staff to take holiday days, and in many instances they are not permitted to dictate when individuals take holiday.
Employers need to take into account availability of public transport or otherwise to get to work. Any time taken to avoid attending work in bad weather can be made up another time or taken as holiday, and in some circumstances as unpaid leave. Handling bad weather and travel disruption can offer an opportunity for employers to lift both morale and productivity, so being open to opportunities such as flexible working and working at home can provide a boost to employee relations.
With just five months to go before the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force, we outline what your business need to do
1. Data audit
Businesses should prepare to conduct a data audit to identify areas where action is needed to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Employers need to understand what staff data is held within the organisation: where that data comes from, where and how it is stored, what happens to it while it is within the organisation and when and how it is deleted.
2. Reviewing data policies
The company’s data policy may need reviewing. The updated data protection policy should set out clearly:
• what personal data is and why data protection is important;
• information about the employer’s collection and use of their personal data: on what basis and why this is processed;
• what the data rights of employees are and how the employer will ensure these are upheld;
• how data breaches are dealt with; and
• the consequences, for the business and individual, of non-compliance.
The written policy should also set out when and how specific categories of personal data are deleted. It should include the new ‘right to be forgotten’, requiring employers to delete personal data where the data is no longer necessary for the purpose in relation to which it was collected, consent has been withdrawn or if the data was processed in breach of the GDPR.
3. Data breach
The GDPR will introduce a duty on all organisations to report any data breach within 72 hours, unless it is unlikely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of the individual affected. If the breach is high risk, the individual may also need to be notified.
Businesses should therefore have an internal reporting procedure in place, which should include:
• guidance on what constitutes a data breach;
• decision-making protocols about whether notifications are necessary, who will be responsible for such notifications and timescales; and
• recording systems for all breaches, including those where there was no obligation to notify the ICO.
4. Staff training
Properly trained staff can make all the difference, not only in demonstrating a business’s commitment to upholding the principles of data protection within the GDPR, but also in ensuring that employee data is properly and lawfully obtained, stored, processed and deleted, and in helping to prevent any data breaches. All staff should be trained in handling data and the training must be evidenced and monitored.
Consider “motherhood” prospects in recruitment and promotion decisions? A quarter of business owners say they do!
Almost one in seven employers say they would be reluctant to recruit a woman they thought might later have children, according to research, that shows an alarming level of everyday maternity discrimination in the labour market.
The survey heard that of 800 professionals with power over HR decision-making, a significant number would think twice about hiring women in their 20s and 30s who might have children in the future – even though it is illegal to make recruitment decisions on these grounds.
The findings follow earlier research, which found that almost 40% of young mums had been illegally asked in job interviews about how being a mother would affect their ability to work.
A quarter of respondents in the latest survey indicated that their organisation takes account of whether a woman is pregnant or has young children during decisions about career progression or promotion.
The previous research from the trust correlates with these new findings. Its poll of 319 mothers aged between 16 and 24 previously revealed that a quarter experienced discrimination when their employer found out they were pregnant.
In a separate House of Commons select committee debate, a panel of expert witnesses has put forward evidence on women’s experiences of sexism and sexual harassment in universities, workplaces, public spaces and online, showing that society has a long way to go before it eradicates discrimination in women of childbearing age!
Equality and Human Rights Commission action to clamp down on sexual harassment in the workplace
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) has taken action to clamp down on sexual harassment at work. The commission has written to the chairs of FTSE 100 companies and other leading employers demanding evidence of what they were doing to prevent sexual harassment, asking them to provide them with details of the safeguards they had in place, steps they had taken to ensure all employees can report instances of harassment.
The letter warned of legal action where there was evidence of systemic failures to deal with such behaviour. Sexual harassment is unlawful under the 2010 Equality Act, and employers can be held liable if they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it.
The commission has launched its own guide to the law as it relates to sexual harassment, focusing on the problem following a wave of high-profile sexual harassment claims against politicians and actors.
Employers have been warned that senior managers should give clear messages about standards and role model inclusive behaviour. In addition, staff must be supported with education on what is acceptable and how to respond to unacceptable behaviour. Employers must ensure they have robust reporting and management procedures to protect staff from sexual harassment.
The commission’s guide said all employers were expected to communicate an anti-harassment policy to workers and ensure it was effectively implemented and reviewed. It added that they should maintain an appropriate procedure for reporting harassment, protecting victims and taking action against perpetrators.
Sports Direct and Primark named and shamed by the Government for failing to pay minimum wage
Employers who are falling foul of the National Minimum wage have been named and shamed in an effort to remind businesses that the correct payment Primark has hit the headlines as it was listed as the third biggest offender in the country after it deducted the cost of worker’s uniforms from their salaries, resulting in them earning less than the minimum wage. The retailer has been forced to pay back £231,973 to 9,735 employees. The company had insisted that staff choose items of clothing from the store to wear at work and then, when they deducted the cost from wages, the resulting pay was less than equivalent to the minimum wage for the number of hours’ worked. They were told that if they expect staff to wear uniform, they should be issued without any charge to the employee.
Sports Direct has also been told to pay back £167,036 to 383 staff – for failing to increase wages on birthdays. In total, 260 employers failed to pay £1.7million to 16,000 of the lowest paid workers. They have been fined a total of £1.3million as a result.
This is the thirteenth time that the government has named and shamed employers who have failed to pay National Minimum Wage and Living Wage rates. A further 2,500 cases are being worked on by HMRC. Eligible employers will be named and shamed after their cases have been closed.
Since 2013, the Government has identified £8million in back pay for 58,000 workers, with 1,500 employers fined a total of £5million.