Employment Law & HR – 2016 in review

As 2016 draws to a close, we reflect on some prominent tribunals and cases brought before courts, the new laws introduced and companies put under the spotlight.

Here are our 10 top picks:

1  Brexit caused uncertainty

June 23rd 2016 marked a landmark day in British history books as it was the day when we voted to leave the European Union.

Theresa May announced that she would trigger Article 50, the formal withdrawal procedure to leave the EU, by the end of March 2017. She confirmed that there will be a Great Repeal Bill, whereby EU laws will be converted into domestic law and Ministers will, after debate and scrutiny, maintain, revoke or amend the EU laws as they see fit.

The High Court has thrown another spanner in the works. It ruled that the government does not have the power to trigger Article 50 without the approval of Parliament. This is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.

2  The government introduced the National Living Wage

The National Living Wage was introduced on 1st April 2016 for workers aged 25 and over. The current rate is £7.20 an hour and will increase next April 2017 to £7.50.

3  Holiday pay went to the Court of Appeal

In the long-running case of Lock v British Gas, the Court of Appeal confirmed that an employee’s holiday pay must be based on their basic pay and any results-based commission they would have earned if they were not on annual leave. The case is not over yet – it has been reported that British Gas will appeal to the Supreme Court. Find out more with our case analysis.

4  Shared parental pay case went before a tribunal

This year brought us the first tribunal decision, Snell v Network Rail, on shared parental pay. An Employment Tribunal in Scotland has found against an employer who paid mothers and fathers different rates when on shared parental leave. Read our case report.

5  Gig economy model was challenged

In the first high-profile case on the gig economy in the UK, the London Central Employment Tribunal found against the company Uber, which allows people to book and pay for a taxi via an app, in a case regarding employment status. It stated that the people who work for Uber are workers, not self-employed as the company claimed and as such they are entitled to workers’ rights.

As the matters discussed in this decision go straight to the core of the gig economy business model, it is very likely that it will go all the way to the Supreme Court.

6  Employers need to take active steps to ensure workers can take rest breaks

In the case of Grange v Abellio London Limited, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) was asked to make a ruling on whether an employer had refused an employee’s right to a rest break despite the fact that the employee has never made a request for a break.

The EAT said while the employer cannot force their employees to take rest breaks, they should take active steps to ensure that working arrangements enable the worker to take rest breaks during their shift. If the employer fails to put working arrangements in place that allows the employee to take breaks, the employee can make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal.

7  Crackdown on employers hiring illegal workers

The Immigration Act 2016 came into force on the 12th July 2016, making changes to provisions on illegal workers.

Since July 2016, an employer who knowingly hires or has reasonable cause to believe an employee is working illegally is committing an offence. It carries a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Make sure you comply with the law and read our guidance on right to work checks.

8  Companies’ working practices came under the spotlight

This year, several organisations have been subject to inquiries, media scrutiny and legal action from their workers.

  • Sports Direct has faced a backlash for its working practices and business model. It has been criticised for its high use of zero-hour contracts, not paying the national minimum wage, penalising staff for taking short breaks or for taking time off when sick.
  • Asos’ use of agency staff and invasive monitoring and surveillance of staff in warehouses has also been condemned.
  • Workers at Deliveroo protested over changes to pay structures this summer.
  • HMRC launched an enquiry to investigate the courier company, Hermes, after getting numerous complaints about low pay and poor employment practices.
  • Workers at Tesco are claiming that they have been discriminated against on the basis of age and sex after their pay rates for working weekends and bank holidays were slashed.
  • An Employment Tribunal has given thousands of women who work at Asda the right to proceed with equal pay claims.

 9  Dress code rules made the headlines

The case of a receptionist who was sent home for wearing flat shoes to work went viral and brought the issue of dress code into public consciousness. She complained that this was discriminatory – her male colleagues were allowed to wear flat shoes, but she had been told to wear heels. Over 150,000 people have now signed a petition she created to modify the law.

10  Reasonable adjustments for disabled employees revisited

In a recent case, the EAT held that an employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 could mean they must maintain the salary of a disabled employee who has been deployed to a less skilled or junior role. Read our analysis of the case.

It’s certainly been a busy year for HR Managers trying to keep up with what’s happening! 2017 promises to be just as interesting – so watch this space!

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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