Age discrimination pay out, due to “mocking”
An employee has won a £15,000 age discrimination payout after a tribunal heard that she was repeatedly ‘mocked over her age’. Apparently, younger colleagues made fun of the employee’s age and apparent deafness (which they attributed to her age).
The employee was so embarrassed and upset about the mocking she arranged for a hearing aid to be fitted. But this did not stop the negative remarks.
It was also heard that she was ‘mocked’ for not being able to remember things and having to turn to a colleague, yet ‘staff did not mock each other when they forgot things or misheard something’. The tribunal heard that this was related to her age.
The pharmacy counter assistant complained to the owner of the business about the attitudes of some younger colleagues towards her, she was told to ‘let it go over her head’ and the owner did not take her grievance seriously.
The employee also suffered from arthritis and after a fall at work she sustained a back injury. She called in sick and was dismissed the following week.
The employer alleged that the counter assistant had been let go due to poor performance, but the employment tribunal concluded that she had been the victim of both age and disability discrimination and she was awarded £15,649.13 by the tribunal which included £13,000 for injury to feelings.
This case highlights the need for employers to train all employees to understand what constitutes discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.
Employers need to encourage staff to open up about mental health
For many years, mental health has been deemed a taboo subject and the workplace, some employees are still afraid of disclosing their mental health challenges over fears that this could hamper their career progression, and this is something that new research has highlighted. It is suggested that three in ten UK employees have concealed a mental health issue from employers, instead claiming that they are physically ill when they phone in sick.
A 2,000-strong survey found that those aged between 18 and 24-years-old were the most likely to conceal a mental health issue, with 37% admitting to doing so.
The report suggested a negative correlation between age and the struggles opening up about mental health challenges. For example, just 26% of those aged 33 to 44-years-old and 13% of those aged over 55-years-old said that they had concealed a mental health issue. The number of women reporting mental health issues during this period was higher than men.
With so many employees struggling to varying degrees in the pandemic, it is crucial that employers provide support, as well as promote an open and inclusive culture where staff feel that they can speak up about any challenges they may be facing.
Not only can this make a difference to the mental wellbeing of employees, but it can have huge benefits for morale, engagement and productivity too.
Cybersecurity concerns costing businesses
Almost two-fifths of business decision-makers have dismissed employees because of a cybersecurity policy breach since the Covid-19 pandemic began, a survey has found.
The research found more than half of firms believed that working from home made employees more likely to circumvent security protocols – including through the use of personal laptops and failing to change passwords.
The poll found that almost two-thirds had made substantial changes to their cybersecurity policies in response to breaches. It is therefore imperative that employers revisit data security protocols as homeworking looks set to continue.
Employers need to communicate that the same principles of data protection apply at home as in the office, including that a breach could lead to severe disciplinary action, The importance of securing data and directing employees accordingly cannot be underestimated as the employer could find
themselves responsible for significant data breaches if they have not taken appropriate steps to protect it.
Separately, a report by recruitment firm Robert Walters has found that up to 65,000 cyber attacks take place on UK SMEs every day, with 4,500 successful. The report found that almost half of UK companies admitted to not having adequate cybersecurity provision to maintain a fully remote working model.
Is it ok to video record disciplinary meetings?
With many employees still working from home, it may be necessary to carry out disciplinaries, grievances, performance and absence meetings, consultations and even dismissals remotely, via video call.
Many employers will feel that it would be easy to record these calls, but is this lawful?
These recordings will comprise personal data of all participants and others identified in discussions and may include sensitive personal data, including political opinions, health or disability information, ethnic origin, trade union membership, religious belief, sexual orientation or criminal convictions.
Video is more intrusive than audio recording, which in turn is more intrusive than written notes. Video captures tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. It captures individuals’ images,
which are likely to disclose their age and gender and potentially race, religion and some disabilities. If footage is shared inappropriately, there is greater risk of misuse.
To comply with GDPR, data collected must be limited to ‘what is necessary’: if there is a less intrusive alternative that meets business needs, that option should be used.
But there may be exceptions. For example, recording might be justified if:
· there is a particular need for a verbatim account;
· an employee’s first language is not English; or
· it is a reasonable adjustment in light of an employee’s disability.
But what if an employee agrees to the recording? Employees’ consent is likely to be ‘invalid’ for data protection purposes, due to the imbalance of power between employers and employees. This means it cannot be used to justify recording, and there must be another legal basis, such as the possible exceptions above. If there is a justification for recording, participants’ agreement is not necessary, but they must be informed in advance.
If a meeting is being video recorded:
· carry out a data protection impact assessment first, to identify the legal basis for recording, and assess and mitigate risks;
· ensure data protection privacy notices include sufficient information and have been communicated;
· give all participants advance notice of the recording;
· store the recording securely, maintaining the integrity of the information;
· limit access to those with a ‘need to know’;
· the retention period will depend on the reason for making the recording: if this is to create a verbatim note, delete the recording once this is done, unless there is another reason to keep it;
· technology sometimes fails, so consider written notes as a back-up.
Policies should make clear, and everyone should be reminded, that participants must not make their own recordings unless this has been agreed in advance, due to particular circumstances.
Settled status clock ticking
More than two million EU citizens have so far been granted settled status, official figures have shown. The Home Office has revealed that out of the 3.8 million applications received by the government’s EU Settlement Scheme up to 31 July, more than two million have been granted settled status, giving them the permanent right to remain in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends.
On top of this, almost 1.5 million were granted pre-settled status, which allows recipients to remain for five years, after which they become eligible to apply for full settled status.
It is thought that EU citizens who failed to apply for the scheme in time could find themselves subject to the Government’s “hostile environment” policy – a set of immigration policies designed to make staying in the UK difficult for individuals who don’t have leave to remain.
Businesses are asked to signpost employees to Government advice on the settlement scheme but are cautioned against asking employees directly whether they have applied, in order to reduce the risk of discrimination between those who have and haven’t applied prior to the deadline of 30 June 2021.
Is slow home internet decreasing your business’ productivity?
As we increase our reliance on internet connectivity in the home with huge numbers of employees permanently home-based, new research has found that those who experience unreliable or slow connections are being adversely affected.
In a survey of more than 1,000 people working from home, 89% of employees experienced an unreliable internet connection, believing they wasted an average of just over 30 minutes a day as a result; with one in 8 losing an hour or more. Overall, over 80% claimed that they have suffered from an unreliable internet connection or slow internet speeds.
One of the reasons for this fight for connectivity is likely to be due to increased demand for bandwidth in the household. But these issues could be causing problems for business leaders, with almost half of respondents believing the impact of slow or unreliable internet connection either could cause, or is causing, frustration for staff in the business that they work for.