In 2018 sickness absences cost UK employers an average of £656 per employee. With employers likely to experience the highest levels of sickness absence between January and March, those looking to tackle short-term intermittent sickness absence may want to consider (among other things) offering flexible working options and duvet days while limiting the amount of annual leave employees take in the summer.
The government recently published details of its Good Work Plan, which sets out its considered position on the Taylor review of modern working practices. While the plan provides useful information on what is likely to happen, it is too early for employers to do much to prepare. The draft regulations that have been published so far are relatively straightforward and most changes will not come into effect until April 2020 at the earliest.
There were a number of significant employment law decisions in 2018, particularly on the issue of employment status, which continues to be a hot topic. In addition, the fallout from various high-profile allegations of sexual harassment and the resulting #MeToo movement has continued, with the use of non-disclosure agreements in harassment cases provoking debate. There are also various reforms planned following the government's response to the Taylor review of modern working practices.
The Court of Appeal recently upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal's ruling that drivers engaged by Uber are workers rather than independent contractors. The majority also upheld the employment tribunal's finding that drivers are working when they are signed into the Uber app and ready to work. Doubt arose from the fact that a driver could have other rival apps switched on at the same time, in which case it was arguable that they were not at Uber's disposal until having accepted a trip.
The High Court recently dismissed a judicial review challenge to a finding by the Central Arbitration Committee that Deliveroo riders are not workers. Although permission for judicial review had been granted on limited grounds, the judgment provides important guidance on what constitutes an employment relationship in the context of EU human rights law and emphatically endorses Deliveroo's position that riders are genuinely self-employed.
The High Court recently considered a case where an internal auditor from the supermarket chain Morrisons disclosed payroll data on the Internet relating to about 100,000 of his colleagues following an internal disciplinary process. The auditor was tracked down, charged and sentenced to eight years in prison. But was Morrisons liable to the employees whose information he had leaked?
The chancellor recently confirmed that with effect from 6 April 2020, businesses in the private sector which engage 'contractors' (ie, individuals who supply their services via their own company or partnership (the intermediary)) will be responsible for determining whether the IR35 rules apply. If the business considers that IR35 applies, the person paying the intermediary will be responsible for operating pay-as-you-earn and national insurance contributions on the fees that it pays to the intermediary.
The government's plan to make termination payments in excess of £30,000 subject to employer national insurance contributions has been delayed for a second time and will now take effect from April 2020. Initially this change was expected to be introduced from April 2018; however, the Autumn 2017 Budget announced that it would take effect from April 2019. The further delay is welcome news for employers as it will help to keep the costs of settlement payments down for another 12 months.
The High Court has awarded an interim injunction to Berry Recruitment Limited to prevent a former employee from soliciting and dealing with its clients and candidates. This case reinforces the fact that, in the right circumstances, recruitment businesses can enforce post-termination restrictions against employees without the trouble and expense of a full hearing.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that a company was vicariously liable for the violent conduct of its managing director in physically attacking one of his employees at a Christmas party. The decision confirms that employers can be vicariously liable for actions taking place outside the normal employer-employee environment, such as an off-duty misuse of authority by someone in a senior position.
The government says that it is "time to move to mandatory ethnicity pay reporting" and recently launched a consultation on a possible new law. The consultation seeks feedback on the sort of information that employers should be required to publish. It sets out some different ways in which this could be done, including by having a single pay gap figure of 'white versus non-white' or multiple pay gap figures for all of the different ethnicities or by publishing pay information by £20,000 pay band or by quartile.
The Information Commissioner's Office has made a civil monetary penalty order of £120,000 against Heathrow Airport Ltd after a lost USB stick containing the sensitive personal information of a number of employees was found by a member of the public. Employers should evaluate whether it is necessary to allow employees to use removable storage media and ensure that employees are fully informed of the applicable data protection policies and given relevant and adequate training.
The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill recently received royal assent to become the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018. The act entitles employed parents who have lost a child to take statutory paid leave to allow them time to grieve. The new rights are expected to come into force in 2020.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal recently upheld a decision that the dismissal of an employee immediately before a Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations transfer was automatically unfair because the principal reason was the transfer. The case emphasises that even where an employer believes that it has a non-transfer-related rationale for the dismissal, caution should be exercised if the dismissal will occur close to the transfer date.
In a case about whether Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) Regulations applied to the transfer of a public health team commissioning service, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has considered points of appeal in relation to two seldom litigated provisions of TUPE: Regulations 3(5) and 4(1).
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has confirmed that when considering whether there has been a service provision change under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, a tribunal must identify the relevant activity. Further, the analysis must be conducted in the right order and any fragmentation should be considered when determining whether activities carried on by the subsequent service provider are fundamentally the same as those carried on by the outgoing service provider.
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has published a report on sexual harassment in the workplace highlighting five points on which it is calling on the government to take action. The committee's call to put sexual harassment at the top of the agenda for both the government and employers is timely, although it remains to be seen what effect the recommendations will have and whether specific legislative proposals will emerge in response.
The Court of Appeal has decided that care workers carrying out so-called 'sleep-in' shifts are not entitled to the national minimum wage for the whole shift, but rather only when they are required to be awake and working. In so ruling, the court has overturned various earlier decisions of the Employment Appeal Tribunal and contradictory guidance from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, which would have exposed the care sector to claims for arrears of pay worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
Although massively contentious, the government's white paper proposals on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union post-Brexit add some flesh to the bones of what future interrelation between the two entities may look like. But what are the key points for employment lawyers?
The EU Withdrawal Bill has received royal assent and become the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. As a result of the act, it is now law that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union at 11:00pm on 29 March 2019, with the European Communities Act 1972 being repealed. Only fresh legislation could delay or overturn the United Kingdom's departure. What does this mean from an employment law perspective?