For our analysis of the likely impact of Brexit on employment law, please refer to the blog in April.
Immigration Bill receives Royal Assent
The Immigration Bill received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016 and is now the Immigration Act 2016.
The Act introduces checks on illegal working and provisions to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers, such as:
Section 1: creating a Director of Labour Market Enforcement, who will oversee the enforcement of legislation tackling the exploitation of migrant workers;
Section 34: the criminal offence of employing an illegal worker has been extended to incorporate cases where an employer has reasonable cause to believe a person is an illegal worker;
Section 85: providing power to the Secretary of State to introduce an immigration skills charge on employers who sponsor non EEA skilled workers.
Acas report on Early Conciliation
Most employers are familiar with the process of Acas early conciliation which is mandatory for most prospective claimants before issuing a claim in the Employment Tribunal. Early conciliation was introduced to assist the parties in reaching an agreed settlement without having to go through the tribunal process to have the dispute decided.
But how effective is early conciliation? Acas has recently published a report on the impact of early conciliation and the statistics are set out below:
31% of claims settled during the EC stage and 17% of these potential claimants credited Acas for their assistance
22% of claims settled after the EC stage once a claim had been submitted
52% of potential claims subject to EC resulted in a formal settlement by way of COT3 and 8% resulted in a private settlement
71% of claims reported to Acas (including those which were issued) did not proceed to a hearing following EC
Out of those claimants who withdrew their cases, 27% said they thought they would not win or that it would be a waste of time, 20% said that the tribunal fees were off-putting and 17% said Acas assisted them with their decision to withdraw
78% of Claimants used a representative at the ET1 stage, but only 24% used a representative at the EC stage.
92% of employers who took part in EC were satisfied with the service they received from Acas and would use them again
ICO prosecutes former company employee for unlawfully obtaining client data
An employee who emailed himself details of 957 clients as he was leaving to start a new role at a rival company has been successfully prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The email contained personal data relating to the company’s clients including contact details, purchase history and commercial data. The prosecution by the ICO was brought under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 which makes obtaining and accessing personal data a criminal offence. This offence is publishable by way of an unlimited fine. On pleading guilty to unlawfully obtaining personal data, the employee was fined £300 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £405.98 in costs.
Employers who wish to protect confidential information about their clients and customers should always include a provision in the employment contract which prohibits an employee from disclosing or misusing such information both during employment and after they have left the organisation. Where an employee acts in breach of this contractual protection, the remedy is usually some form of injunctive action. This case is reminder that there are other potentially more cost effective ways of preventing an ex employee from misusing confidential information which may be used instead of or in addition to legal action.
France considers ban on out of work emails
On 16 May 2016, the French National Assembly voted to pass a Bill that would make businesses with more than 50 employees draw up a charter setting out the hours, generally in the evening or at weekends, that employees should not send emails. The proposed Bill has no penalty provisions, and companies are expected to comply voluntarily.
The Bill now passes to the senate for further scrutiny.
Employee sent home from work for not wearing heels
A temporary receptionist was informed that she had to wear two to four inch heels or she would be sent home. The employee queried why women were forced to wear heels when male colleagues were permitted to wear flat shoes. She also explained how uncomfortable heels were particularly because she would be doing a lot of walking during her day as she was to escort clients to meeting rooms. In response she was told it would be ridiculous for men to wear heels but it was part of the “female grooming policy” for women to wear two to four inch heels. She was informed that if she didn’t go and buy some heels, she would be sent home without pay. She refused and last week started a petition calling for a ban on forcing women to wear high heels at work
At the time of writing this article, the petition had already received nearly 148,000 signatures, meaning that this issue must now be debated in Parliament. A comment from the government reads “Company dress codes must be reasonable and must make equivalent requirements for men and women. This is the law and employers must abide by it.”
Whilst employers have a large discretion regarding dress code, they need to ensure that any dress code which disadvantages women can be objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, otherwise they risk a discrimination claim. It is difficult to see how most employers would be able to justify the wearing of high heels in the workplace.