Employment Tribunals

Employment Law covers many different aspects of employer responsibilities and employee rights, including contracts of employment, hours of work, Statutory Sick Pay and dismissal. Your employer should comply with employment law else they are at risk of employment tribunal claims. Let’s take a look at 20 key facts about employment law, that your employer should be abiding by:

  1. Your employer must register with HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) before their first pay day when taking on their first employee. A payroll must be run and employees should be issues payslips outlining earning before and after deductions and include all detail of Tax and National Insurance. Payroll information must be reported to HMRC every time an employee is paid and they must pay any tax and National Insurance owing.
  2. An employer must ensure that all employees have the legal right to work in the UK and keep copies of all provided documents, before they start working.
  3. Within a two month period of starting work, employees are entitled to a written statement of employment terms, however if you are employed for less than one month you are not entitled to such.
  4. The terms of an employment contract can only be changed by an employer if they have reserved the right to do so or the employee has given agreement or consent. Any alterations to the contract must be agreed by both parties with written confirmation within one month of the change taking effect.
  5. A contract of employment exists once a potential employee has accepted an unconditional offer of employment, which is often before they have commenced employment
  6. A probationary period of three to six months is typical, with the period being long enough for an employer to reasonably judge whether an employee can do the job.
  7. Minimum wage applies to almost all employees, whether casual, part-time, full-time or agency workers. Workers aged 25 and over are entitled to the National Living Wage, which is £7.83 per hour. There are also four different hourly rates for National Minimum Wage, which are: £7.38 for workers aged 21 to 25, £5.90 an hour for 18 to 21-year-olds, £4.20 per hour for 16 and 17-year-olds, £3.70 for apprentices under 19 or older than 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship.
  8. You are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year as an employee (at least 28 days a year for a full time employee). Part-time employees are entitled to the same holiday, but on a pro rata basis. Holiday entitlement begins to accrue from the first day of employment and accrues even through periods of absence such as sick leave or maternity.
  9. SSP (statutory sick pay) is £92.05 per week but it isn’t uncommon for an employer to pay more than this amount. If an employer believes you are not genuinely ill or you do not comply with notification requirements, they are entitled to refuse to pay SSP.
  10. Employees must be ‘auto-enrolled’ into a workplace pension and an employer must also contribute unless an Employee specifically opts-out of the scheme.

If you believe you have received poor treatment in the workplace by your employer, or any other grounds for a claim , you will be faced with the choice of whether you could like to pursue an Employment Tribunal Claim or try to settle your claim, usually via a ‘settlement agreement’ contract. Lets break down the most important factors to consider when deciding which avenue to take.

  1. What potential claims do you have, and how likely are those claims going to be successful?
  2. What outcome are you seeking from an Employment Tribunal Claim?
  3. Is settlement an option for you, or is an Employment Tribunal Claim a point of principle?
  4. What impacts could a claim have on you in the long term?
  5. How committed are you to the process an employment tribunal claim?

What potential claims do you have, and how likely are those claims going to be successful?

The first step is to determine what potential claims you may actually have based on the circumstances of your case – have you been a victim of workplace harassment, discriminated against, victimised or unfairly dismissed? The nature of claims you choose to pursue will of course have a significant impact on your chances of success and the value of any Employment Tribunal Claim. You will also need sufficient evidence to reinforce the particular claim(s).

What outcome are you seeking from an Employment Tribunal Claim?

Generally speaking, if you are only pursuing an Employment Tribunal Claim to seek compensation (a financial payment),  it is more likely that you will be able to settle your claim. If you are looking for another form of remedy however, then you might have to seek this through a successful claim in the Employment Tribunal (as it is normally difficult to persuade an employer to re-engage you through a settlement agreement).

Is settlement an option for you, or is an Employment Tribunal Claim a point of principle?

There is very little point in entering into a settlement agreement negotiation if you aren’t interested in a settlement. If you are strongly set on not settling from the get-go, then your time and effort is best focused on preparing your Employment Tribunal claim. On the other hand, if you are open to settlement, then it is best to approach the other party at an early stage to negotiate and agree upon the terms of the settlement.

What impacts could a claim have on you in the long term?

The public nature of an Employment Tribunal should be considered as early as possible. All Employment Tribunal judgements are now published online and the parties to the litigation will therefore want to think carefully about what impact any publicity could have on their careers or business.

How committed are you to the process an employment tribunal claim?

The process of an employment tribunal claim can be stressful and daunting. However, using a no win no fee employment solicitor like ourselves, your stress can be alleviated as we guide you through the entire process from initial assessment to making a claim.

A whopping £390,000+ worth of employment tribunal claims went entirely unpaid last year following the employers in question being placed in administration or being dissolved or liquidated. Experts have stated that these figures may indicate the continued struggle with ‘phoenixing’ businesses avoiding tribunal debts.

It was revealed, thanks to figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) by People Management under a freedom of information (FOI) request, that 56 awards (worth a total of £394,505) were unpaid due to insolvency in 2017. This figure was broken down further, bringing to light that of the 56 unpaid awards two (worth £20,695) were unpaid due to administration, twenty six awards (worth £87,544) went unpaid due to dissolution and twenty eight awards (worth £286,267) were unpaid because of liquidation.

A company is placed in administration as a means of attempting to save it from insolvency. This involves control being handed over to an administrator, who will attempt to pay off, or reach a deal with, as many creditors as possible, as to reduce the company’s debts.

A company is liquidated when, as a means to pay off debts, its assets are sold off. This usually occurs after administration is unsuccessful. Finally, a company is dossolved once it is struck off the Companies House register.

The particular companies in question were not revealed, however the figures suggest that there is a continued issue of ‘phoenixing’, the unscrupulous practice of company owners avoiding tribunal awards or other penalties by making their business insolvent only to set up a very similar, new company afterwards.

Croner associate director, Paul Holcroft stated ““In the current climate, where we hear of town centres being depleted of their shops and pubs at an alarming rate, there will be very many genuine insolvency situations which mean tribunal awards go unpaid, however, with the possibility that ‘phoenixing’ is contributing to that number, employers may well be intentionally circumventing the system.”

“Without detailed analysis, it is difficult to tell which are genuine insolvencies and which aren’t, but anecdotal evidence from claimants has suggested that many insolvent ex-employers are now trading again.”

It’s clear that phoenixing is a common problem that continues to grow. However, the Taylor Review on Modern Working Practices, which was published in July 2017, called for the government to take further action against companies which dodged paying tribunal awards, and to establish a “naming-and-shaming” system for those who did not pay awards within a reasonable time period.

As stated on gov.uk, UK law allows directors, owners and employees of insolvent companies to set up brand new companies and carry on a similar business as long as the individuals involved aren’t personally bankrupt or disqualified from acting in the management of a limited company.

Yes, if the date of termination is in dispute, held the EAT in Basra v BJSS Limited.

Pre-termination discussions between employer and employee are protected under section 111A Employment Rights Act 1996 and cannot therefore usually be referred to by either party in an unfair dismissal claim, unless there has been “improper behaviour”. In Basra, however, the EAT held that there is an exception to this rule if the date of termination is in dispute.

The Claimant wrote an email to the Respondent in response to a without prejudice offer letter it had sent saying “today will be the last day at BJSS”. The Claimant then stopped attending work, and later brought a claim for unfair dismissal. BJSS argued the Claimant’s employment had ended by mutual termination and, in the alternative, the email was a resignation. The Claimant denied resigning and said he had been dismissed by BJSS at a later date. The tribunal, following Faithorn Farrell Timms LLP v Bailey, noted that s111A protection cannot be waived (unlike without prejudice negotiations) and excluded BJSS’s offer letter as protected under s111A ERA.

The EAT held that as the protection under s111A only applies to pre-termination negotiations, “the chronological line between what is, and what is not, admissible therefore lies on the point at which the contract is terminated”. The EAT went on to say that “where there is a dispute as to whether or not the contract was terminated on a particular date, the tribunal would not be in a position to say what evidence should be excluded until that dispute is determined”. Thus the tribunal needs to determine the termination date before applying s111A

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

 

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

Remember the 2016 ECHR decision in Barbulescu v Romania, which said that a Romanian employer acted lawfully when it monitored an employee’s Yahoo messenger account?

Something unusual has happened.  There has been an appeal from the Chamber of the ECHR (7 judges, who take most of the decisions) to the Grand Chamber (17 judges, the final tier and unusual).  And the Grand Chamber has come down more in favour of the right to privacy and reversed the decision.

It’s a complicated and nuanced judgment.  But the main point is that workers have a right to respect for privacy in the workplace, and if an employer is going to monitor their emails and messages, the employer should (exceptional reasons aside) tell the worker that their communications might be monitored.  Here, although the employee knew it was forbidden to use work computers for personal purposes, he had not been told that the employer was monitoring his communications.

Accordingly the ECHR held that the Romanian court’s decision was wrong, and that Romanian law failed to strike a fair balance between the employer’s and the employee’s interests.  Accordingly there was a breach of Article 8 and the employee was entitled to compensation.

Did suspension of a teacher amount to a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence?

Yes, held the High Court in Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth. In this case, a teacher was suspended because of the force she used with two children. She had not been asked for her response to the allegations and there was no evidence of consideration given to any alternative to suspension. She resigned the same day.

Foskett J held, following Mezey and Gogay, that suspension was not a neutral act, at least in the context of a qualified professional in a vocation, such as a teacher. Taking into account the statutory guidance for local authorities, it was noted that a knee-jerk reaction must be avoided and that suspension must not be the default position. The reason given for the suspension was not the protection of children, but to “allow the investigation to be conducted fairly”.

The Court concluded that suspension was adopted as the default position, was a knee-jerk reaction, and amounted to a repudiatory breach of contract. This was not undermined by a resignation in friendly terms.

NB the court did not have before it the question of whether this case was an attempt to circumvent the statutory qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims and fell within the ‘Johnson exclusion zone’.

Link to the case

If a director was named on the ACAS Early Conciliation form and the company on the Claim Form, should the claim be allowed to proceed (as this was a minor error)?

No, held the EAT, in Giny v SNA Transport Ltd.

The Claimant brought several claims, including constructive dismissal, against his former employer. When he was initially unrepresented, he contacted Acas for Early Conciliation and named the director, Shakoor Nadeem Ahmed, as the prospective Respondent. He then instructed solicitors to prepare his Claim Form which correctly named the Respondent as his employer, ‘SNA Transport Limited’. The employment tribunal rejected his claim as the Respondent had not been correctly identified on the Early Conciliation Certificate.. His solicitors applied to the tribunal to reconsider that decision on the basis that the use of the director’s name was a “minor error”, which (under the rules) allows a tribunal to overlook it.

The employment tribunal rejected that application.. Confusing the director with the company was not a minor error, and it had been right to reject the claim. The Claimant appealed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, although sympathetic, rejected the Claimant’s application. It said that a two stage test should be applied.. Firstly, was it a minor error? If not, the claim would be rejected..Secondly, if it was, the tribunal should go on to consider whether or not it was in the interests of justice to allow the claim to proceed.. Although in principle the distinction between a natural and a legal person could amount to a minor error, in this case it did not. Each case should be considered on its facts, and as there was no error in the tribunal’s Judgment, the Claimant’s appeal was dismissed.