Pregnancy discrimination payout
An Employment Tribunal has ruled that an employee was treated unfairly by her employer after her manager told her that she should resign because of her pregnancy and pregnancy-related illness. Additionally, the tribunal found that the company had discriminated against her after changing her hours and work location when she sought to return from a period of pregnancy-related absence.
The employee worked from 9am to 3pm, and then from 4.30pm to 5.30pm from home. This was agreed in her offer letter. In practice, this arrangement did not work out as the employee needed access to the computer in the office to work efficiently. However, the employee told the tribunal that the flexible working arrangement only changed when her employer was informed of her pregnancy, after which she was required to work in the office full time.
Evidence was presented to the tribunal that the employee had pregnancy complications and it was only in a conversation in which she informed her employer that she needed to attend hospital, that her pregnancy was revealed. There were several more appointments in the early stages of her pregnancy which caused her to have time off work.
The manager gave evidence to the tribunal that he had planned to change his employee’s hours and working from home arrangement earlier that year and had drafted an email to send to her raising the issues, but after a discussion with another member of staff did not send it.However, the tribunal found no evidence of any clear instruction or requirement, or even a decision, to seek to formally change the employee’s working hours. The tribunal accepted the employee’s evidence that, if she had been told that was what was required of her, she would have told her employer that she was unable to do so because of her childcare commitments.
The employee was then told that she had been selected for redundancy, the timing of which the tribunal found consistent with her account of being told that she should resign if she was not able to attend the office during the hours required by her employer. In short, the tribunal found that the employer would not have taken this action if the employee had not told him that her absence was pregnancy-related.
The Judge found that if the employee had not been off with pregnancy-related illness, the requirement to work in the office between the hours of 9am to 5:30pm would not have been imposed on her. There was no evidence that the company intended to take any steps to change her working arrangements until she was off sick for a pregnancy-related reason.
The employee was awarded £18,405.97 for loss of earnings and injury to feelings, plus uplift and interest.
Upheld grievance leads to constructive dismissal
An accounts assistant who was led to the middle of an open plan office and “berated” in front of his colleagues for several minutes was constructively unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled. The Judge found that the employee was subjected to “significant incidents of bullying” from management during his employment which was likely to “destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence”
The employee had worked for the London insurance underwriting firm for four years with no formal issues before the bullying incident. His manager described his performance as “good” in 2017 and 2018. However, at the end of August 2017 a member of the team went on long-term sick leave and the employee had to undertake additional work he was inexperienced dealing with. Another colleague left in 2018, which again saw the employee undertake work he was not experienced in. Two members of the finance team told the tribunal they believed he “had not been given the appropriate training or guidance”.
In February 2019, the employee was “berated” by his manager in front of his colleagues about errors on a financial statement. This was not the first time he had been subjected to this behaviour and the “continuous ridicule” left him in a “vulnerable position” which caused him to feel stress and resulted in him making more errors.
He raised a grievance and was upheld by his employers, and in April 2019 his line manager was changed, but the employee was signed off work with anxiety and stress and on his return felt that he was being treated differently by several colleagues and a senior manager.
The atmosphere did not improve and ultimately, the employee felt that he had no choice but to resign as a result of the perceptible change in attitude towards him after he raised the grievance.
The Judge ruled that “coldness” from senior management contributed to his view that his employer “was not happy with him following his grievance, and it contributed to his view that the respondent no longer wanted him to work for them”, and as such his claim of constructive unfair dismissal was well founded. The Judge also concluded that the employee was subjected to bullying as no steps were taken by the employer to check his wellbeing after “significant incidents of bullying towards him”.
Even if a grievance is upheld, it is vital that employers treat the employee raising the issue with respect at all times. The way in which this employee was treated AFTER raising the grievance was the key factor in the finding of this tribunal.
Retirement plans put on hold
The pandemic is causing older workers to delay their retirement plans, according to a survey, which has raised concerns that the financial impact of coronavirus could be forcing people to work for longer.
A YouGov poll of 2,114 UK adults found that, among over-55s who planned to retire in the future, one in eight had made the decision to delay their retirement plans because of the pandemic.
The poll also highlighted financial concerns among older employees planning to retire. More than half of all UK adults said they were concerned about only being able to afford a limited lifestyle in retirement. The survey has suggested that retirement incomes have been affected by falling interest rates and the job prospects for the over-50s are difficult in the current climate.
There are more than 600,000 over-50s claiming universal credit, which is more than double the figure last year. There has been a call for the government to offer tailored initiatives to support the over-50s back into the workplace and financial incentives to businesses to encourage them to hire older workers who bring with them a wealth of life experience and wisdom.
Redundancy bumping: what is it and how does it work?
Many employers are facing difficult redundancy decisions and when doing so they must meet specific requirements to ensure the fair and lawful dismissal of employees. This includes having a genuine reason for any redundancy and following the correct redundancy procedure.
As part of a fair redundancy process, an employer should generally consider if they can offer an ‘at risk’ employee suitable alternative employment. This includes any vacant roles and can extend to considering roles that are not vacant. Where the alternative role is not vacant, but rather already filled by another member of staff, this is called ‘redundancy bumping’.
A bumped redundancy occurs when an employee (whose role is not at risk of redundancy) is dismissed as redundant and the resulting vacancy created by their dismissal is filled by the employee whose role was originally redundant.
Redundancy bumping, despite the potential injustice to the employee who is ultimately dismissed, is lawful, provided the correct procedure is followed in respect of the bumped employee’s dismissal.
The process of bumping can appear to be an unjust process, especially since it results in the dismissal of someone whose job role was not actually redundant. However, in legal terms, this can constitute fair grounds for redundancy. In cases where an employer fails to consider bumping of employees, this may actually constitute unfair dismissal.
The principle set by case law around bumping is that there is no strict requirement on an employer to consider bumping its employees in every redundancy case, nor is the employer under an obligation to dismiss another employee to preserve the employment of another member of staff. But if during consultation, the “at risk” employee looks at another role in the business and wishes to be considered for it, the employer must have a very strong reason for failing to do this. As always, the fairness of the dismissal will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and bumping is only one factor determining fairness.
It is also important to remember that it may not be sufficient to simply consider the possibility of redundancy bumping. To avoid a finding of unfair dismissal, you must also consult with the employee to explore whether they would be willing to consider a more junior role at a reduced salary.
“No jab, no job” – consider the risks of forcing employees to be vaccinated
Pimlico Plumbers will introduce a “no jab, no job” policy requiring all of its workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Charlie Mullins, Pimlico’s founder has said that he will introduce new employment contracts for the 400-strong workforce to include the vaccine requirement. However, it is important to note that attempts by companies to force employees to be vaccinated could lead to claims of discrimination or constructive dismissal, potentially opening employers up to employment tribunal claims. Employers have to balance their duty of care for employees during the pandemic against their duty not to discriminate.
If an employee has a religious or philosophical belief that they should not receive a vaccine this is likely to give rise to a claim that the employer is discriminating by forcing that employee to be vaccinated. This is potentially a huge issue for care employers who want to be able to reassure their clients, residents and service users that staff working with them, are safe. The best way to reach agreement is to consult employees about vaccinations rather than trying to impose them.
Other business owners are taking a public stance in this subject and stating that they will “strongly encourage” their staff to be vaccinated. In the current climate, employers should be careful about how strongly this “encouragement” is couched; in order to avoid making staff feel pressurised to take the vaccine, or leave their employment.
Leadership skills most in demand in early 2021 job market
Leadership skills such as coaching, onboarding and decision-making are the top of employers’ wish lists for 2021.
According to data from a job search engine, the percentage of advertisements seeking candidates with coaching abilities rose from 3.3% in 2019 to 3.7% in 2020, making it the skill with the fastest growing popularity throughout the year.
Similarly, demand for onboarding skills rose from 0.4% in 2019 to 0.7% for 2020. Adverts citing decision-making rose from 1.3% to 1.4%.
The demand for leadership skills reflect how employers are responding to the fallout of the pandemic and where potential skills shortages and opportunities may lie.
Last year, advertisements for skilled staff exceeded the opportunities offered to entry-level applicants.
Though advertised UK vacancies were down 35.8% in 2020 compared to 2019 overall, entry-level graduate vacancies were down 61% year-on-year.
There are around 8,000 adverts for graduate vacancies compared to over 22,000 for more experienced roles advertising salaries over £70,000.
The hiring landscape changed dramatically over 2020 and hiring patterns shifted with a different set of skills needed for 2021.
Leadership skills such as onboarding and decision-making have grown in demand as employers seek experienced staff to help them navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.
Topping the list of hard skills in demand for 2021 were training (wanted by 37% of job advertisements), design (cited by 9.5% of adverts) and degree-level qualifications (also cited by 9.5% of adverts).
Just half of UK employees feel trusted at work
Despite trust in the workplace being fundamental to employee engagement, research conducted found across Europe just 46% of employees in Europe feel they are ‘often’ or ‘always’ trusted by their employer.
In its survey of 1,700 full-time employees in five countries, the UK had the highest levels of employee trust at 50%, followed by The Netherlands and Sweden at 48%, Germany at 39% and France at 36%.
Employees said contributing to organisational goals and being invited by colleagues to make decisions were the most critical features of being trusted.
The data should set alarm bells ringing, it should be concerning to leaders that over half of employees do not feel a sense of trust at work, particularly when we found that this motivates employees to do their best work.
Trust needs to be shown in action, and we hope this data helps corporate leaders in Europe lead inclusively and promote trust as part of their organizational cultures. Across Europe, 43% of women said they experienced trust at their organisation compared with 49% of men.
As a manager do you need to see your employees in order to ensure you know they are doing their job? If you need to see them, as a manager you don’t trust your employees and they, in turn, won’t trust their manager.
Employers need to communicate clearly and consistently across the organisation and ask for regular feedback from employees on what’s working well and what can be improved. Employees like to work for organisations with integrity and they like to feel listened to, so managers need to make themselves available for these conversations.
30,000 lose their jobs in hospitality in 2020!
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a 163% rise in restaurant job losses in the UK in 2020 and will make for a challenging start to the year for businesses.
Data compiled by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) has revealed that 29,684 jobs were lost across fine dining, independent hospitality businesses and large multiple casual-dining chains during the year.
The sharp increase from 11,280 job losses in 2019, has been caused by two national lockdowns, local lockdown restrictions, curfews, changes to service rules and recently strengthened tier measures.
It paints a challenging picture for hospitality as the UK is in a third national lockdown.
The hospitality sector experienced rapid growth in outlets during 2014 to 2017 as successful chains added additional branches, but they frequently paid too much, while maintaining quality standards proved difficult. The need to cut costs caused by over-expansion, increased competition and weak consumer demand produced a crisis in the industry before the pandemic.
Employers ‘named and shamed’ for failing to pay minimum wage
Experts warn lack of resource could cause ‘inadvertent’ breaches as government publishes list of firms that collectively underpaid more than £6m.
More than 100 companies, including some of the UK’s biggest household names, have been named and shamed by the government for failing to pay workers the minimum wage.
The government investigated claims of failure to pay the national minimum wage (NMW) between 2016 and 2018, discovering that 139 named firms failed to pay £6.7m to more than 95,000 workers in total.
Among those named was restaurant chain Pizza Hut, which failed to pay 10,980 workers the NMW, totalling approximately £845,936. St Johnstone Football Club owed £14,266.74 to 28 workers, 25 of whom were apprentice footballers. A spokesman for the Scottish Premiership club told the BBC the underpayments were related to voluntary deductions from pay and that changes had been implemented following a review of apprentices’ working hours.
Other firms on the list include Superdrug, Müller UK & Ireland Group, Costco Wholesale UK and Tesco, which failed to pay £5,096,946 to 78,199 workers, although the supermarket told the BBC the underpayment was a result of a technical fault and that it had reported the issue to HMRC itself.
This is the first time the government has published the names of companies for failing to pay the NMW since 2018, following changes that mean this will be done more frequently, but only the worst offenders will be targeted.
HMRC, which led the investigation, said preserving and enforcing workers’ rights was a “priority for this government”, and the publication of the list was intended to serve as a warning to “rogue employers that the government will take action against those who fail to pay their employees properly”.
The government said one of the main causes of NMW breaches was low-paid workers being made to cover work costs such as paying for uniforms, training or parking – which would eat into their pay packet and dip it below minimum wage.
Additionally, some employers failed to raise employees’ pay after they had a birthday that should have moved them into a different NMW pay bracket.
Employers that breach NMW legislation have to pay back arrears of wages to the worker at current minimum wage rates. The firms also face hefty financial penalties of up to 200 per cent of arrears – capped at £10,000 per worker – which are paid to the government.
Each of the 139 companies named by HMRC have paid back their workers and were forced to pay financial penalties.
Why presenteeism isn’t necessarily a bad thing
With around 66% of businesses now working remotely, the importance of employers managing presenteeism is even more critical. Job flexibility has increased, but for many, so has work pressure.
Many employees are feeling compelled to demonstrate availability to their employers, and when home has become office, it becomes even harder to switch off from work. As a result, there is an increased risk of presenteeism impacting not only on employee health but also productivity.
When the majority of employees were in the office, it was easier for managers to intervene when they spotted an employee struggling with a physical or mental health issue.
However, for those working from home, this can be very difficult. Employees are potentially left much more to their ‘own devices’ in managing their health and productivity.
Not only is it potentially more difficult to spot employee health issues, but the question of whether an employee should remain working or take sick leave, is a complicated one.
For example, compared to sickness absenteeism, presenteeism still provides a level of productivity. If managed appropriately, it can help improve employees’ mental health by providing a sense of achievement, structure, social support and the feeling of being included which are essential for wellbeing.
Consequently, when the work demands are adjusted to the health condition, presenteeism can aid recovery. Equally, one does not need to wait until an individual is 100% healthy before returning to work activities; adjusted working during illness can provide a means of facilitating a gradual return to full working capacity.