Employment Tribunal

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Is the employment tribunal required, when deciding whether to give permission to amend a claim to add a new claim which may be out of time, to decide the ‘time point’?

Not necessarily, according to the EAT in Galilee v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

An amended claim takes effect from the date when permission is granted, not the date of the original claim.

Therefore, granting permission to amend does not deprive the employer of the right to argue that the claim is out of time.

Further, it is not necessary to decide if the claim is out of time when deciding whether to grant permission to amend, save in clear cases. Permission to amend can be granted subject to the time point being decided at a later stage or the decision whether to grant permission can be deferred to the full hearing

 

Can a Respondent employer rely on parts of a ‘without prejudice discussion’, or protected conversation, whilst at the same time using the rules as a shield?

No, held the EAT in Graham v Agilitas IT Solutions Ltd.

The Claimant was facing termination of employment. During talks which the Respondent characterised as being without prejudice and/or protected under s111A of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Claimant made comments which the Respondent subsequently used to form the basis of disciplinary action. The Claimant alleged improper conduct/unambiguous impropriety by the Respondent in the form of bullying and threatening behaviours in the same meeting.

The EAT held that the Respondent could not waive privilege on parts of the meeting and rely on privilege in relation to other parts to shield its conduct.

The Claimant was entitled to have the employment tribunal examine the improper conduct. The case has been remitted.

Employment tribunal was wrong to reject the wrongful constructive dismissal claim

In Rawlinson v Brightside Group Ltd, the EAT has held that an employment tribunal was wrong to reject the wrongful constructive dismissal claim of an employee who resigned when falsely told that he was to be dismissed due to a work reorganisation (the real reason was his performance). The tribunal erred both in its failure to find that the employer had acted in breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, and in its characterisation of the employee’s complaint as relating to the manner of his dismissal. By deciding to give him a reason for the termination of his employment, the employer had assumed an obligation not to mislead, an obligation it then breached. The complaint did not relate to the dismissal but to the falsehood told with a view to keeping the relationship alive for the notice period.

R was employed as an in-house legal counsel by BG Ltd, a firm of insurance brokers. A few months into his employment, the company decided to dismiss R due to concerns about his performance, despite never having raised these with him. To ‘soften the blow’, R was simply told that BG Ltd had decided to outsource legal services. It wanted him to work through his three-month notice period to ensure a smooth handover of work. However, R resigned with immediate effect on the basis that that any outsourcing exercise would constitute a ‘relevant transfer’ under TUPE and the company was therefore breaching its statutory obligations. R subsequently brought employment tribunal claims for, among other things, breach of the duty to inform and consult under TUPE and wrongful constructive dismissal (based upon a fundamental breach of the implied term of trust and confidence).

The tribunal rejected R’s TUPE claims, finding that there was no relevant transfer. As for the contract-based claim, the tribunal found that the company’s failure to forewarn R of any performance concerns and the potential for dismissal did not amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. Although R genuinely, and with some cause, believed that he was unfairly treated, BG Ltd had no obligation to provide the information to him. The tribunal considered that R’s complaint was really about the manner of his dismissal. This meant that it would be precluded by the House of Lords’ decision in Johnson v Unisys Ltd 2001 ICR 480, where it was held that common law damages for breach of contract cannot be awarded in respect of unfair treatment connected to a dismissal. R appealed.

The EAT agreed with R that in all but the most unusual cases, the implied term of trust and confidence must import an obligation not to deliberately mislead. This does not mean an employer is necessarily placed under some broader obligation to volunteer information, such as a reason for dismissal. Nevertheless, where a choice has been made to do so, the implied term requires that it is done in good faith. Even allowing that there may be particular cases in which the operation of the implied term would permit some element of deceit – the ‘white lie that serves some more benign purpose’ – the EAT could not see how that was so here. The tribunal had therefore erred in failing to find that the implied term had been breached.

The tribunal had further erred in failing to see that R’s complaint did not relate to the dismissal, but to the falsehood told to him with a view to keeping the relationship alive for the notice period. It therefore did not fall within the ‘Johnson exclusion zone’. As the House of Lords recognised in Eastwood and anor v Magnox Electric plc (Brief 762), if an employee suffers loss as a result of an employer’s breach of the implied term in the steps leading to a dismissal, he or she has a common law cause of action that precedes, and is independent of, the subsequent termination of employment. R’s response to the communication of an untrue reason for his dismissal was to walk out, giving rise to a loss of earnings over the notice period. The EAT therefore allowed the appeal and substituted a finding that R’s wrongful dismissal claim should succeed.

Link to transcript: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2017/0142_17_2111.html

In Ayodele v Citylink Ltd and anor, the Court of Appeal has held that the burden of showing a prima facie case of discrimination under S.136 of the Equality Act 2010 remains on the claimant. This provision made no substantive change to the law when it came into force in October 2010 and Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing was wrong to hold otherwise in the EAT in Efobi v Royal Mail Group Ltd.

A, a black man originally from Nigeria, brought a number of claims against his former employer, C Ltd, following the termination of his employment, including claims of race discrimination. The tribunal dismissed his discrimination claims on the basis that A had not established prima facie evidence of less favourable treatment and therefore the burden of proof had not shifted to the respondent. A’s appeal to the EAT was dismissed. Before the Court of Appeal, A raised a new ground of appeal. He submitted that there was a fundamental error in the approach taken by the employment tribunal as to the proper application of the burden of proof under S.136 EqA. He relied on Elisabeth Laing J’s decision in the EAT in Efobi v Royal Mail Group Ltd (Brief 1078), to the effect that the wording of S.136 EqA does not impose a burden of proof on a claimant at all. Instead, it requires the tribunal to consider all the evidence, from all sources, at the end of the hearing, so as to decide whether or not there are ‘facts’ from which it can conclude that discrimination occurred and, if so, it must so find unless the respondent can discharge the burden on it. A pointed to the fact that in his case the tribunal had directed itself that there was a burden of proof on him at the first stage of the enquiry and therefore it fell into error.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. It noted that the wording of S.136 EqA is different from the wording of the equivalent predecessor provisions, in that there is no longer any express reference to the claimant being required to prove facts. It rejected A’s suggestion that there was an analogy to be drawn with the assessment of fairness of a dismissal in an unfair dismissal case, where there is no burden on either party. In that context, the tribunal is required to make an assessment in which it is not apt to refer to the burden being on either party. However, in a discrimination case, before a tribunal can start making an assessment, the claimant has got to start the case, otherwise there is nothing for the respondent to address and nothing for the tribunal to assess.

The Court of Appeal could see no reason why a respondent should have to discharge the burden of proof unless and until the claimant has shown a prima facie case of discrimination that needs to be answered. Accordingly, it held that there is nothing unfair about requiring a claimant to bear the burden of proof at the first stage.

The Court also observed there was no reason to suppose that Parliament enacted S.136 to remove the burden of proof from a claimant. Furthermore, the EU Burden of Proof Directive (No.97/80), which S.136 gives effect in domestic law, does not require there to be no burden on a claimant at the first stage, and the legal community has proceeded for the last seven years on the assumption that no change of substance was made by S.136. The change in wording from the predecessor provisions simply made clear that what should be considered at the first stage is all the evidence, and not only the evidence adduced by the claimant: it should be regarded as no more than legislative ‘tidying up’. The Court concluded that previous decisions of the Court of Appeal, such as Igen Ltd and ors v Wong and other cases (Brief 777), as approved by the Supreme Court in Hewage v Grampian Health Board (Brief 958), remain good law and should continue to be followed by the courts and tribunals. It therefore held that the interpretation of S.136 by Elisabeth Laing J in the EAT in Efobi was wrong and should not be followed.

Link to transcript: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/1913.html

EA Dismisses Uber Appeal against Employment Tribunal Decision

In Uber BV and ors v Aslam and ors, the EAT has dismissed Uber’s appeal against the employment tribunal’s decision that its drivers are ‘workers’ within the meaning of S.230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the equivalent definitions in the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (NMWA) and the Working Time Regulations 1998 SI 1998/1833 (WTR). It held that the tribunal was entitled to reject Uber’s characterisation of its business as a technology platform rather than a provider of transport services, and to look beyond the contractual documentation describing drivers as self-employed contractors offering their services to passengers via the Uber app. The EAT also approved the tribunal’s finding that the drivers could be considered to be working for the purpose of the NMWA and the WTR at any time when they were logged into the Uber app, within the territory in which they were authorised to work, and able and willing to accept assignments.

The Uber business relies on a smartphone app through which customers can order and track a taxi and pay the fare. Uber treats drivers as self-employed and there is complex contractual documentation between it, the drivers and the passengers. Uber seeks to present itself as a technology platform facilitating the provision of taxi services, not as the provider of the taxi service itself. It holds itself out as acting as agent for the drivers, and its agreement with passengers states that the contract for the taxi service is between the driver and the passenger. Under the contract between Uber and the driver, the driver is not required to make any commitment to work. However, when a driver signs into the app, this usually signals that they are coming ‘on-duty’ and are therefore able to accept bookings. As for day-to-day work, prospective passengers book trips through the app. Upon receipt of a passenger request, the app locates an available driver (i.e. one who is logged in). The selected driver has ten seconds to accept the booking through the app, failing which Uber assumes that the driver is unavailable and locates another. If a driver fails to accept bookings, warning messages are generated which can lead to the driver’s access to the app being suspended or blocked (which prevents the driver working).

A number of Uber drivers brought employment tribunal claims of unlawful deductions from wages, relying on failure to pay the national minimum wage, and failure to provide paid annual leave. Two of the drivers were selected as test claimants and the employment tribunal considered, as a preliminary issue, whether the drivers were ‘workers’ for the purpose of S.230(3)(b) ERA. The tribunal found that they were. It rejected Uber’s case that the drivers were self-employed, and that it merely provided the technology platform that allows drivers to find and agree work with individual passengers. In the tribunal’s view, this characterisation of Uber’s business model and the contractual documentation created to support it did not accord with the reality of the working arrangements, which was that Uber relies on a pool of workers to provide a private hire vehicle service. As for what periods would count as ‘working time’ for the purposes of the WTR and the NMWA, the tribunal concluded that the drivers should be treated as working whenever they are in the territory in which they are authorised to drive, have turned on the app, and are ready and willing to accept fares. Uber appealed to the EAT.

The EAT dismissed the appeal. Her Honour Judge Eady QC, sitting alone, held that, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher and ors (Brief 934), the tribunal was entitled to find that the contractual documentation did not reflect the reality and thus that it was entitled to disregard the terms and labels used in the written agreements. The tribunal was required to determine the true agreement between the parties and, in so doing, it was important for it to have regard to the reality of the obligations and the situation. The tribunal was therefore bound to focus on the statutory language, rather than the labels used by the parties, and reach a fact-sensitive decision.

HHJ Eady QC noted that the key question was: when the drivers are working, who are they working for?

Uber submitted that the tribunal had failed to understand its argument that an agency arrangement, whereby it acted as agent in relation to contracts between drivers and passengers, was common in the private hire industry. However, in HHJ Eady QC’s view, the tribunal was not denying the possibility of individual drivers operating as separate businesses and, as such, entering into direct contracts with passengers, it was merely saying that this was not what it found to be the true position. It was entitled to take into account, among other things, the scale of the business, rejecting the notion of Uber as ‘a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common platform’. The tribunal was also entitled to rely on its finding that drivers were integrated into Uber’s business, and were marketed as such. HHJ Eady QC also rejected Uber’s argument that the tribunal erred by taking into account features of the relationship that resulted from regulatory requirements as indicia of an employment relationship – it was not obliged to disregard factors simply because they might be seen as arising from the relevant regulatory regime.

As for the tribunal’s conclusion with regard to working time, Uber argued that the tribunal failed properly to take into account that, even while signed into the app, drivers were at liberty to take on or refuse work as they chose, or to cancel trips already confirmed, and could even work for others, including direct competitors of Uber. It therefore submitted that, in those circumstances, they were not at Uber’s disposal or working for Uber. HHJ Eady QC conceded that this aspect of the appeal had caused her some trouble. However, she was satisfied that the tribunal had grappled with this issue and reached a permissible conclusion. The tribunal had made a finding that drivers were expected to accept at least 80% of trip requests when signed in, and that being ‘on duty’ meant being ‘willing and able to accept trip requests’. Even if the evidence allowed that drivers were not obliged to accept all trips, the very high percentage of acceptances required justified the tribunal’s conclusion that, once in the territory with the app switched on, drivers were available to Uber and at its disposal.

Link to transcript: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2017/0056_17_1011.html

 

Does the EU Working Time Directive allow for weekly rest for a worker of 24 hours to be given at any point in a 14-day period?

Yes, held the European Court of Justice in Maio Marques da Rosa v Varzim Sol. The case arose from a redundant casino worker in Portugal, who claimed his employer had not given him a weekly rest period of 24 hours at the appropriate time, and it should have been given at the latest after six consecutive working days. The casino operated 12 hours a day, 364 days of the year.

The CJEU held that there was no requirement for weekly rest to be provided after six consecutive days of work, it can be provided within each 7-day period. Therefore, the Directive allows a working pattern with a rest day at the start of one 7-day period and another rest day at the end of the following 7-day period, so working 12 consecutive days is permissible under the Working Time Directive.

 

If another person influences a decision-maker in a discriminatory way, can that person be considered a joint decision-maker?

Yes, held the EAT in Metropolitan Police v Denby. Link to Judgement

The Claimant was a male police officer. The Deputy Assistant Commissioner had concerns about a lack of gender diversity in a group led by the Claimant. She responded in a heavy-handed manner to complaints about members of that group claiming for overtime not worked but, when similar complaints were made about a group led by a female officer, she allowed them to be investigated locally.

The employment tribunal found that the Deputy Assistant Commissioner had influenced the decision by another officer to subject the Claimant to a criminal investigation.

The EAT agreed that this was a finding which it was entitled to make, and that the other officer was not “innocent”, in the sense defined in CLFIS v Reynolds, because he was fully aware of the discriminatory context. Although this context had not been put to him in cross-examination, it was sufficient that he had been questioned about the influence on him.

The employment tribunal allowed an amendment on the sixth day of the hearing, where another potential discriminator was added, in the alternative to the one originally pleaded, after the identity of the decision-maker had been thrown into doubt by witness evidence. The EAT stated that the CLFIS principle should not be allowed to become a means of escaping liability by deliberately opaque decision-making. Where it is difficult, for good reason, to identify the individual responsible, an amendment is sometimes permissible during the course of a hearing, and this did not cause any procedural unfairness on the facts of this case.

 

Is it a whistleblowing dismissal if the person who made the decision to dismiss was ignorant of the protected disclosure, and was deliberately misled by the employee’s line manager to believe the reason was poor performance?

No, held the Court of Appeal in its judgment in Royal Mail Ltd v Jhuti. Link to Judgement

Ms Jhuti was an employee at Royal Mail who made a protected disclosure to her line manager. During a dismissal process, the line manager, motivated by the protected disclosure, deliberately misled the investigating manager so that she dismissed Ms Jhuti for poor performance. The EAT held that both the reason and motivation of the decision maker and the line manager had to be taken into account, and could be attributed to their employer.

In reversing the EAT’s decision, the Court of Appeal held that in determining the “reason for the dismissal”, the tribunal is only obliged to consider the mental processes of the person(s) authorised to, and who did, take the decision to dismiss (being the mind of the employer). Underhill LJ raised some doubt about whether, in cases of manipulation, the position would be different if the CEO deliberately manipulated the dismissal decision.

Underhill LJ stressed that unfair dismissal cases require unfairness by the employer. Unfair conduct by individual managers or colleagues is immaterial unless it can properly be attributed to the employer.

In principle, Ms Jhuti is not precluded from recovering compensation for dismissal consequent on unlawful detriment but this is for the employment tribunal to decide.

 

Does an embassy employee have diplomatic immunity in respect of employment claims from his domestic staff?

No, held the Supreme Court in Reyes v Al-Malki. Link to Judgement

Mr and Mrs Al-Malki employed Ms Reyes as a member of domestic staff at their London residence. Mr Al-Malki was a diplomat of the Saudi Arabian embassy in London.

In circumstances very similar to yesterday’s case of Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs & Anor, Ms Reyes began employment tribunal proceedings and alleged that Mr and Mrs Al-Malki mistreated her during her employment and that she is a victim of human trafficking. Those allegations have yet to be determined and the issue for the Supreme Court was whether the tribunal has jurisdiction to hear the claims within the exception to the rule of diplomatic immunity, contained in Article 31(1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.

The Supreme Court unanimously held that Mr Al-Malki would not be entitled to diplomatic immunity in relation to a claim of human trafficking brought by Ms Reyes because her employment (to carry out domestic tasks) and alleged treatment would not constitute acts performed in the course of the diplomat’s official functions.

In De Mota v ADR Network and anor, the EAT has held that an employment judge erred in rejecting a claim on the basis that the early conciliation (EC) certificate named two respondents. Although rule 4 of the Schedule to the Employment Tribunals (Early Conciliation: Exemption and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/254 (the EC Rules) requires a prospective claimant to present a separate EC form in respect of each respondent when contacting Acas, it does not apply to the EC certificate itself, and there is no rule that renders unlawful a certificate that names two respondents.

DM worked as an HGV driver for the Co-Operative Group Ltd (CG Ltd) between 2012 and 2015. He sought to claim unfair dismissal, breach of contract, unlawful deduction from wages, holiday pay and notice pay. His case was that he was employed by, or contracted to work for, ADR, and that ADR assigned him to work for CG Ltd. ADR and CG Ltd disputed this, saying that DM had set up his own company providing his services to ADR, and that ADR provided his services to CG Ltd. DM completed an EC form online. The information provided to online applicants states, in accordance with rule 4 of the EC Rules, that in order to make a claim against more than one respondent the claimant must complete a separate form for each one. However, DM completed just one form, putting ‘ADR Network and The Co-operative Group’ in the box for the respondent’s name. He gave an address which is both the depot of CG Ltd and a business address of ADR. Despite the error, Acas issued an EC certificate, which identified the ‘prospective respondent’ as ‘ADR Network and The Co-operative Group’. DM went on to present his claim to an employment tribunal, naming ADR and CG Ltd as two separate respondents.

An employment judge rejected DM’s claim for non-compliance with the EC Rules. He ruled that the form that DM had submitted to Acas named neither of the respondents but rather a non-existent entity whose name was the conjunction of the names of both respondents. He noted that rule 4 renders it necessary to submit separate forms in respect of separate respondents. He therefore concluded that DM had failed to provide the required information in the prescribed manner and so the tribunal was deprived of jurisdiction by S.18A of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996. DM appealed to the EAT.

The EAT allowed the appeal. His Honour Judge David Richardson, sitting along, noted that, following the EAT’s approach in cases such as Mist v Derby Community Services NHS Trust (Brief 1040) and Drake International Systems Ltd and ors v Blue Arrow Ltd (Brief 1040), it is clear that the purpose of the EC provisions is limited – it is not to require or enforce conciliation, it is simply to build in a structured opportunity for conciliation to be considered. Furthermore, it is no part of the provisions to encourage satellite litigation. HHJ David Richardson pointed out that S.18A ETA, which sets out how the tribunal’s jurisdiction depends on compliance with the EC provisions, focuses upon the existence of an EC certificate. In his view, Parliament did not intend that the process leading up to the certificate should be subject to criticism and examination by the parties or the employment tribunal. For one thing, as was pointed out in Mist, if the prospective claimant does not provide the prescribed information in the prescribed manner, the EC Rules make it plain that Acas is not bound to reject the claim. For another, if it were open to the parties or the tribunal to go behind the certificate, it would also be open to them to challenge Acas’s conduct of the conciliation procedure. Thus, the employment judge erred in law in going behind the certificate and finding that DM failed to provide the prescribed information in the prescribed form to Acas.

HHJ David Richardson went on to hold that the employment judge was wrong to rule, in effect, that Acas had issued an unlawful certificate. Rule 4, which requires individual respondents to be named on separate forms, does not apply to the EC certificate, and there is no similar mandatory requirement elsewhere in the EC Rules. Nor should such a requirement be implied, especially where the effect would be to bar access to the legal system for a litigant based on a technicality. It may be that the issuing of a single certificate was an error on Acas’s part but that is not the same as saying that it was an unlawful certificate. The appeal would therefore be allowed and the claim remitted to the employment tribunal for proceedings to continue.

Link to transcript: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2017/0305_16_1309.html