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Employment Law

Free speech v harassment

Posted on: April 19th, 2021 by Ginny Hallam

There’s plenty on the world agenda to keep us all debating. Whether it’s views on the royal family, race and ethnicity, the environmental agenda, or women’s rights, there’s plenty to discuss.

Whilst many employers want to encourage conversation, sharing, and transparency, expressing (or not expressing) views can result in conflict and harassment claims. Here are a few little known facts about harassment claims:

  1. The employee who is offended does not need to possess the protected characteristic at the root of the claim. For example, a white employee could issue a claim about offensive comments made about another individual’s race;
  2. The offending comments do not need to be directed at the employee – simply experiencing an offensive environment is sufficient to bring a successful claim;
  3. The offended employee could have encouraged the offensive behaviour yet still have the chance of litigating successfully.

In the next update, we’ll share our views on supporting a balanced work environment without creating litigation vulnerabilities. If you’d like support with promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity, please get in touch here for further advice.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (20 April 2021), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

Equal pay – the case continues

Posted on: April 6th, 2021 by Ginny Hallam

Following the recent Supreme Court decision that shop floor and distribution centre workers are comparable for an equal pay claim, what does this mean for employers?

First and foremost, the decision doesn’t mean that (largely female) shop floor workers have now won the right to equal pay. What it does mean though is that (largely male) distribution workers are legitimate comparators for the claim.

Employers should take note as this decision opens up the possibility for comparisons to be made between roles that on the surface are different. Here are a few proactive steps to consider:

Audit – carrying out an equal pay audit will provide a clear picture of your pay scales and help create consistency in setting terms and conditions. Ensure that people who do the same work have the same job titles, pay, and job descriptions that reflect the work they do. We can support you to carry out an audit – get in touch.

Job evaluation – if different roles are graded higher or paid more than another, carrying out a job evaluation process will help you to provide objective justification and reasons for any differences in pay (particularly important if the workforce in areas of the business are predominantly male or female).

Keep a record – historic events (such as a TUPE transfer) may have caused differences in pay in parts of your business. Keeping a robust record of these reasons will help justify any differences should a challenge arise.

The case is far from its conclusion – we’ll keep you up to date with developments and ensure you have the practical detail. Get in touch if you need to discuss further.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (13 April 2021) but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

April wage increases

Posted on: March 25th, 2021 by Ginny Hallam

From 1 April 2021 National Minimum and National Living Wage rates will increase. If you’re thinking of making changes to employment contracts, they’re often easier to land alongside a wage increase. Here’s the detail:

1 April – rate increases

Age 23 and over – £8.91 (up from £8.72)

Age 21 to 22 – £8.36 (up from £8.20)

Age 18 to 20 – £6.56 (up from £6.45)

Age 16 to 17 – £4.62 (up from £4.55)

Apprenticeship rate (irrespective of age) – £4.30 (up from £4.15)

Get in touch for our support in updating your employment contracts and introducing the changes. 

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (25 March 2021) but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

New shielding guidance from 1 April 2021

Posted on: March 24th, 2021 by Ginny Hallam

From 1 April 2021, those classed as extremely clinically vulnerable (ECV) will no longer be advised to shield according to new government guidance. Here’s what you need to know:

Statutory Sick Pay – from 1 April those individuals who were classed as ECV will no longer be eligible for SSP (or Employment and Support Allowance) if they are not working.

Return to work – the government are still advising everyone to work from home where possible. If those classed as ECV cannot work from home, they should return to the workplace.

Communicate – if those classed as ECV are unable to work from home, they may still have concerns about returning to work. Communicate early and reassure them of the safety measures you have in place to keep them, colleagues, customers, and clients safe.

Flexibility – travel to and from the workplace may also be a concern if employees need to use public transport. Consider possible flexibility around start/finish times to support ECV employees to avoid peak rush hour times and any other adjustments you might reasonably make.

Get in touch if you’d like our advice or support in managing a safe return to work.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (24 March 2021) but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

When opinions cross the line

Posted on: March 23rd, 2021 by Ginny Hallam

Whether it’s Brexit, coronavirus restrictions, or Megan and Harry – we’re all being encouraged to voice our opinion. In an employment context, differences of opinion or clumsy arguments can cause legal liability.

When does free speech cross the line and amount to harassment?

The right to free speech is enshrined in human rights legislation. That legislation works alongside the Equality Act 2010 which sets out clearly behaviour that amounts to harassment.

The legal definition of harassment (paraphrased) is simply unwanted conduct about a protected characteristic (such as age, race or disability) that makes another person feel humiliated, degraded or offended. So, in an employment context, ill-framed or offensive remarks about race, disability, age or any other protected characteristics can amount to harassment even if not intended to insult. And, as an employer, you can be liable for such offensive remarks.

With liability for harassment claims unlimited and reputational damage wide-reaching, in our next email update, we explore how you strike the right balance between supporting free speech and avoiding harassment claims.

If you’d like support with promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity, please get in touch here for further advice.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (23 March 2021), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.