Category Archives: Employment

Employment experts predict whistleblower boom

As the national lockdown is eased and millions of Brits ditch home offices for communal workspaces, health and employment experts are voicing concern over the lack of protection in place for vulnerable employees.

Under current guidance, all employees able to work from home should do so. But from August 1, employers will be able to decide whether their staff can safely return to the office. The move, which policymakers hope will give the UK economy a much-needed boost, could see workers return to their workplace at the “discretion” of their bosses, provided the work environment is ‘COVID-secure’.

What safety measures will be in place?

To aid the return to work, the government has published in-depth guidance for employers about how to minimise the risk of infection in their workplace. The information spans 14 separate documents, each focused on the specific measure that should be implemented across a range of industries.

The safety measures include ensuring one metre plus social distancing, revised rotas to minimise contact, ensuring a good supply of ventilation and increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning. Bosses must be vigilant to ensure that these safety requirements are met, and take proactive steps to maintain health and safety standards. This will include measuring distances between desks and new entry/exit rules. Employers will also have to carry out a COVID risk assessment. It is strongly advised that employers share the results of their assessment with workers, and discuss any concerns in an open manner. The government also expects all firms with over 50 employees to publish the results online.

However, for many British workers, the prospect of returning to public and private offices, factories, and shops, is concerning. A survey, carried out by YouGov for the CIPD, revealed that 44 per cent of employees felt anxious about returning to their workplace because of Covid-19, and a further 31 per cent were anxious about commuting to work. Many employees said they felt pressured to work even when sick or unwell, and feared that others would come into the workplace when ill, due to sick day stress.

These worries have many asking what to do if their employer fails to protect their health, and how to go about reporting their concerns.

Whistleblowing and the law

According to employment and whistleblowing experts at leading UK law firm, Axiom Stone, all employees have a legal right to hold their company to account if it fails to protect their health. A spokesman for the firm said its lawyers anticipated an increase in the number of complaints relating to wrongdoing in the workplace, particularly concerning health and safety.

They went on: “When the activity comes to an employee or worker’s attention, they should notify the employer or anyone else identified within a policy or procedure as the person to whom the complaint should be made.”

Although whistleblowing may seem like career suicide, UK employment lawyers have been quick to highlight the legal protection afforded to employees who decide to speak out about health and safety issues at their place of work.

An employment expert at Axiom Stone said: “A whistleblower is protected irrespective of how long they have been in the workplace and whether they are directors, partners, freelancers, agency workers, workers or employees. To qualify for protection, the whistleblower must have a reasonable belief that a wrongdoing has occurred, or is likely to occur, and it is in the public interest to make a disclosure.”

Keeping the law on your side

However, despite the protection afforded to whistleblowers in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA), workers are being warned about the potential risks of pursuing legal action without due cause.

According to Workright, a blog which provides free legal advice about UK employment, recent changes to the ERRA have limited the circumstances which allow employees to qualify for whistleblower protection.

It said: “The changes of ERRA, meant that for an employee to make a disclosure, there had to be “reasonable belief” that the case was in the public interest.”

Employees would qualify for this if they had evidence that official safety advice was not being followed, or if bosses were creating a hostile environment for workers taking sick days.

Work Right said that in most cases, issues could be resolved by discussing concerns with a manager, or the company’s appointed health and safety representatives. Alternatively, if the employee fears the repercussions of internal reporting, or is concerned about a potential coverup, then they should make a protected disclosure to HMRC, their MP, or an external body like the FCA.

There are also many charities and independent organisations which provide practical and confidential guidance for whistleblowers. These include Protect, the NSPCC, and WhistleblowersUK.

What’s new for employment law in 2020?

Many people expected there to be little or no change to employment law whilst the Government dealt with Brexit. It was thought that employment law would likely fall to the bottom of the legislative agenda whilst the Government dealt with the aftermath of the 2016 referendum.

However, on 6 April 2020, several significant changes to employment law are coming into force.

Good Work Plan

The way people work has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Most people now work in an “atypical” manner – such as part time working, flexible working and working remotely.

The growth of the “gig economy” has changed the face of employment law in the UK.

The Good Work Plan came about as a result of the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. This was an independent review of employment law practices. The aim of the Taylor Review was “to consider how employment practices need to change in order to keep pace with modern business models”.

The Taylor Review put forward 53 recommendations and the Government has pledged to put almost all of these into place.

The Good Work plan is considered by many to be a major shake-up of employment law and will increase the employment law rights and protections that are afforded to individuals who fall into the “worker” category. It is expected that the Good Work Plan pledges will slowly work their way into law over the coming years.

Written statement of particulars

Major changes to written statements of particulars are coming into force on 6 April 2020. This change was pledged under the Good Work Plan.

Currently, only employees have a right to a written statement of particulars. At present, employees must be provided with a copy of their written statement of particulars within 2 months of starting work for an employer.

However, from 6 April, both employees and workers will be entitled to a written statement of particulars. Employees and workers will have a right to a written statement of particulars from the first day they start work.

Written statements of particulars will have to contain many additional details, such as details of benefits offered by the employer, details of training provided and details of probationary periods.

This will require employers to review their existing template contracts to ensure they are compliant with the new requirements coming into force on 6 April 2020.

Holiday pay

Holiday pay calculations can be complex, especially when a worker or employee works in an atypical manner.

Currently, employers need to use a 12 week reference period when calculating holiday pay.

From 6 April 2020, employers will need to look back a full 52 weeks to calculate holiday pay. It is hoped that this change will be fairer on both workers and employers and make holiday pay more reflective of the way an individual actually works.

Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act

The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act will come into force in April 2020.

This legislation will give parents or carers an entitlement to at least two weeks’ leave following the loss of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service will receive paid leave at the statutory rate and other staff will be entitled to unpaid leave.

This update was provided by Employment Lawyers Inverness.

Image by Andrey_Popov on Shutterstock.

McDonalds CEO sacked after affair with employee

Relationships at work can be a murky area and one of the biggest employment law updates of the past few weeks has been the news that McDonalds has fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, for having an affair with a junior employee. McDonalds found that the relationship had been consensual but that Mr Easterbrook had “violated company policy” and “shown poor judgement” for engaging in a relationship with a junior member of staff.

Mr Easterbrook started working for the fast food colossus in 1993 and worked his way up the company. He left McDonalds in 2011 to become boss of Pizza Express and then Asian food chain Wagamama. He returned to McDonalds in 2013.

Mr Easterbrook was paid $16m last year and the details of the termination package were not revealed to the public.

This high profile dismissal follows Intel boss Brian Krzanich stepping down last year after having a consensual relationship with an Intel employee.

The difficulties of policing relationships at work

Relationships at work are a fact of life. However, they can cause a headache for HR departments.

It is understood that McDonalds’ company policy bans dating and sexual relationships between employees who have a “direct or indirect reporting relationship”.

Many large US companies have introduced policies banning relationships between staff or requiring  employees who enter into relationships with other colleagues to disclose the relationship to HR.

Such policies are much less common in the UK. The Human Rights Act 1998 gives employees a right to private life, and that includes personal and sexual relationships. A policy that impacted upon the right to a private life would be difficult to enforce and would likely be unlawful.

Can an employee be sacked for engaging in a relationship with a fellow employee?

For a dismissal to be fair, employers must be able to show that the dismissal was for one of the following five potentially fair reasons:

  • a reason related to an employee’s conduct
  • a reason related to an employee’s capability or qualifications for the job
  • because of a redundancy
  • because a statutory duty or restriction prohibited the employment being continued
  • some other substantial reason of a kind which justifies the dismissal.

The employer must be able to show that they followed a fair process and that the dismissal was within the “band of reasonable responses”.

It is difficult to see how an employer could fairly justify terminating an employee’s contract for breach of a policy banning them from having a consensual relationship with a colleague. The employer would likely have to be able to show that the relationship was in fact a conflict of interest and was prejudicial to the employer. In most cases, it will be very difficult for the employer to evidence this.

The reality is that in most cases that do not involve such an influential and high profile individual as Mr Easterbrook, it would be difficult to justify terminating employment for conducting a relationship with a colleague.

This article was written by Employment Lawyers Edinburgh.

What impact will Brexit have on employment rights?

The UK is due to leave the European Union (EU) at 23:00 GMT on 31 October 2019. As this momentous date approaches, employment law is just one of the many areas of uncertainty.

There is a misconception that most of UK employment law stems from EU law and therefore, the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will cause a seismic change in employment rights. However, the truth is that much of UK employment law was brought into force via UK legislation and case law and, therefore, many aspects of employment will stay the same when the UK exits the EU.

The current position is that nothing has changed and the existing legislation and case law continues to apply to UK employment law.

What will stay the same?

The law on unfair dismissal, minimum wage, unauthorised deduction from wages, statutory redundancy pay, paternity leave, shared parental leave and flexible working all stem from UK legislation and case law. Brexit will have no direct impact on these areas of employment law.

Discrimination law

Discrimination law is one area whether there could be some reform. Under the Equality Act 2010, individuals are protected from unfavourable treatment on the ground of protected characteristics. The protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sex. The UK had protection against sex, race and disability discrimination pre-EU, but these rights have been extended by the EU, and additional protections have been added.

One possible change to discrimination laws may be the introduction of a cap on discrimination compensation (which is not currently allowed under EU law), similar to the cap for unfair dismissal.

However, wholesale changes to discrimination law seems unlikely.

EU employment law reforms on the horizon

In April 2019, the European Parliament approved new minimum rights for gig economy workers. When the new laws are put into place, gig economy workers in Europe will have a right to compensation from their employer for last-minute cancellation of shifts. The new rules will also require employers to give workers a formal start date and details of what their pay will be. Employers will also have to give workers a formal description of their duties from the day they start working.

It remains to be seen whether these changes would be implemented post-Brexit, but, in truth it appears unlikely.

Will employment law change post-Brexit?

Whilst no one can foresee what impact Brexit will have upon UK employment law, it seems unlikely that there will be any wholesale changes to this area of the law. Much of UK employment law stems from UK legislation and case law and, unless amended, these laws will remain in place once the UK leaves the EU.  Moreover, it is unlikely to be politically desirable for the government of the day to pursue policies that would lessen the protections that workers and employees currently enjoy.

This article was written by Employment Law Glasgow. You can visit their website here.

What’s changed in employment law of late?

Employment law is central to the UK labour market, with a number of significant changes having been made since the 1970s. Many of these improvements have been implemented in conjunction with EU legislation, creating more favourable conditions for employees at all levels in the workplace.

In simple terms, employment law is a broad area that encompasses all areas of the employer and employee relationship, whilst it includes a number of various rules and administrative regulations for companies to adhere to. There are also clauses that place demands on employees, with the vast majority of legislation protective in its nature.

Below, we’ll explore this further whilst asking what changes have been rolled out since the beginning of April?

The gender pay gap

Every April sees the introduction of new employment legislation, with one of this years’ most important laws surrounding the so-called “gender pay gap”.

This applies to all companies with 250 or more employees, with firms having spent the last year adding the finishing touches to their gender pay gap report. This applies to private sector firms, who must publish their report on a company website and make this publicly accessible to everyone for a minimum of three years.

These results should also be uploaded to the government’s reporting website, and whilst commentary is not required companies with a significant gender pay gap must provide context and move to narrow this over time.

Pension payments

This April also saw the minimum level of employer contribution into a pension auto-enrolment scheme increase, from 2% to 3%.

At the same time, the employee contribution was also hiked from 3% to 5%, meaning that the total payable into a staff member’s pension scheme increased to 8% in total.

This is a significant increase that will be reflected on an employee payslip, but it’s by no means the only change made to this document in April. In short, payslips must also now include additional information for individuals whose pay varies depending on the number of hours that they’ve worked.

The right to a payslip has also been extended to all workers rather than just employees, and this is a major but relatively understated change.

The minimum wage

On a final note, it’s imperative that your company is now paying the national minimum wage for workers aged 25 and over.

This sum has now increased to £8.21 per hour, whilst the rate for those aged between 21 and 24 has also risen to £7.70.

At the same time, workers aged between 18 and 20 are now entitled to earn £4.20 per hour, and you’ll need to reflect this in your payroll for employees of all levels.

All of these changes require you to comply fully, and you may need to seek out HR expertise and consider a number of risk advisory factors. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of losing your top talent and facing significant legislatory disputes.

A guide to workplace compensation claims in the UK

In the UK, all businesses and employers are required to have insurance in case anybody is injured while working. Since your claim is covered by your employer’s insurance, you will not be claiming directly against the employer as long as valid insurance is in place.

The following guide will provide answers to many of the questions that you have been searching for. If you would like additional information, don’t hesitate to consult an experienced accident at work solicitor for your free consultation.

Who is entitled to make a claim?

If you have sustained an injury in a work-related accident, you are entitled to claim compensation. If you are over 18 years, you can file the claim yourself with an experienced solicitor.  Solicitors can also handle claims for persons under 18 years, but in such cases, a litigation friend has to be appointed who is usually a close friend, parent, or family member. The litigation friend deals with the solicitor on the case on behalf of the victim. If the victim died after the injury, the dependants could claim on his or her behalf for the loss of dependency.

How do you file a claim for accident at work compensation?

It is quite simple to make your claim with a professional solicitor. The solicitor deals with all the paperwork and corresponding, including filing the court proceedings if needed. You will usually not be at financial risk since most solicitors have a no-win no fee guarantee.

You can also rely on a professional solicitor’s strict client confidentiality. The primary concern for every professional solicitor is ensuring that you can get back to full fitness, which means recovering the best payout possible from the insurers.

How much compensation are you entitled to receive?

One of the first questions that people have about their claim is the amount of compensation they are entitled to. The solicitor will take all the specific circumstances into consideration as well as the guidelines from the Judicial Studies Board to put a value on your case that can be expected as compensation from the insurers.

The most common injuries in the workplace include back related injuries, trip, fall & slip, or injuries as a result of faulty machinery, equipment or clothing. The accidents can lead to a wide range of injuries of varying severity. The solicitor will give you an indication of the levels of compensation you are entitled to with the amounts depending on the length of symptoms and seriousness of the injury.

When it comes to determining the appropriate amount of compensation for your claim, the solicitor also considers any loss of earning, out of pocket expenses, and medical costs you are likely to incur after the injury. The compensation amount can increase significantly in the more serious cases where lifestyle adaptations are required, or ongoing support is needed.

It is the responsibility of every employer to ensure that each worker is protected at work and the area in which employees work is maintained to a safe condition. If you have suffered an injury at your place of work due to the lack of safety equipment or adequate training from your employer, you most likely have a genuine claim for workplace compensation.

How much time do you have to file the claim?

The sooner you file your claim, the better it will be since the incident will still be fresh in your mind. However, as long as your injury was discovered within the last three years, most solicitors are willing to accept your case and work to get the best payout possible for you from the insurance companies.

All injuries at your place of work should be recorded no matter how small they are. Businesses are required to maintain an accident book for keeping a record of incidents that occur on the property. You should also try finding witnesses to the accident and take pictures of the accident scene since it makes it easier to build a compensation claim.

The bottom line: you should choose the right solicitor to represent you

If you have sustained an injury at your place of work, you should get in touch with an experienced solicitor to help you file your claim and get the compensation you are entitled to. Smith Jones solicitors represent clients on a no-win no-fee basis to ensure that everybody has equal access to justice, which means that you have nothing to lose!

The complete guide to zero hour contracts

In the past twelve months, zero hour contracts have been receiving a lot of attention in the media relating to claims that they are unfair on employees. Providing no guaranteed hours or income, it is claimed that those working within zero hour contracts are not able to plan or progress towards their future. Government has been facing pressure to assess the value of the current employment law and whether better legislation is required to create a fairer environment for both employers and employees.

However, the nature of employment changes from industry to industry, with some businesses seeing great value in the ability to employ an individual on a casual basis. Even those employed with zero hour contracts are often some of their biggest advocates. The flexible working schedule can be ideal for some such as students and young people who may not necessarily want fixed hours.

Paris Smith’s top employment law solicitors have collaborated to created an infographic to help guide employers through using zero hour contracts.

Zero hours contracts

How do whistleblowing laws protect employees?


Ever since the Edward Snowden case became international news more and more people have been familiarising themselves with the legislation of whistleblowing; the decision to reveal classified information for the benefit of public interest. However, a stigma remains attached to the act of whistleblowing, with employers considering such behaviour to be deceitful to their organisation, often regardless of any dishonesty on their part.

But how can an employee protect themselves from experiencing discrimination at expressing their concerns? Read on to find out more about this controversial subject matter.

Whistleblowing and the public

Too often employees choose not to speak out about information they’ve acquired due to concern that it could lead to an awkward atmosphere, or at worst, will result in the loss of their job. Such feelings of apprehension often allow illegal and/or offensive conduct to continue.

The legislation involved in the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act has played a major role in encouraging employees to speak out, as this law protects them from receiving unfavourable treatment following an act of whistleblowing. It has also led to a rise in organisation’s conducting internal whistleblowing investigations in an effort to avoid the public disgrace of an external investigation.

Despite these advances in employment law protection, whistleblowing has not lost its contentious reputation, as employees continue to express concern about their decision to pit personal interests against the supposed better interest of the entire company. This is made more difficult by a condition of the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act, which states that cases of whistleblowing must be judged based on the specifics of each case, thereby allowing some claims to be dismissed outright.

So what’s the best way of defending yourself?

It is recommended that all employees first consult an employment law solicitor to understand their rights and the potential outcome of their decision. The revelation of sensitive information is often so heavily disputed that it should be made a priority to receive expert legal advice.

If a case is deemed suitable an employee can then have their concerns considered by a London central employment law tribunal where they are able to protest the legislation while protecting their own position as a whistleblower. However, all employees need to provide strong evidence showing a clear connection between their whistleblowing actions and any treatment they could, or have, received in the aftermath.

But how will employers defend their business?

In order to avoid negative connotations that can arise from acts of whistleblowing, an organisation are able defend themselves through the use in-house codes and practises that they have put in place. This self-governed policy does not prevent employees from having the right to speak out, but it does allow companies to show that they have attempted to deal with, and even assist with, employee concerns, which could potentially have the effect of making the employee appear unreasonable as they have seemingly chosen to defy internal business procedures.

Although, whistleblowing law may have only been part of UK legislation for 16 years, high profile cases have increased its prominence, and the legislation of the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act and Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Act 2013 have been instrumental in making positive changes.

Please note that whilst every effort is made to maintain accuracy of the content in this article; we cannot take responsibility for any errors. This author is not an Employment Lawyer or HR Specialist and this cannot in any way constitute a substitute for Employment Law advice. All facts should be cross-checked against other sources. Should you require specific Employment Law advice, then we recommend that you contact Nationwide Employment Lawyers.

Image by A K Rockefeller on Flickr

A workplace injury witnessed by millions

Fifa criticised by brain injury charity over World Cup semi-final incident

The phrase ‘workplace head injury’ probably conjures up in most people’s minds an incident in a factory or perhaps on a building site, not the football World Cup.  But the incident involving Argentina’s Javier Mascherano in the semi-final of the World Cup in Brazil, was just that.

The Argentinian midfielder collided with Georginio Wijnaldum when competing for a header during his side’s semi-final win over the Netherlands.  It was obvious to the many millions of spectators in the stadium and around the world that Mascherano was severely dazed after the incident, but after a brief spell off the pitch he was allowed to play on.

Brain injury charity Headway criticised Fifa, pointing out that this was the second incident of its kind.  Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira suffered a similar injury against England earlier in the tournament and both players were allowed to continue playing.

A Headway spokesperson said: “On a big stage like the World Cup, it’s incredibly hard to understand how there could be two different players throughout the course of a tournament who have been allowed to continue when they have seemingly been knocked out or suffered a concussive injury,”

adding that there would need to be “some very serious questions asked of Fifa for how they have allowed this situation to happen.”

This raises some interesting and important question from a legal perspective in the area of head injuries. Some medical negligence solicitors may see these events as concerning and raise the question as to why the medical staff present at the football stadia allowed for these footballers to carry on.

Let’s not forget that highly paid footballers playing in high profile, global competitions are, in fact, doing their job in their workplace, which just happens   to be a highly charged, global arena, with the world’s media and millions of fans watching.

Referring again to the semi-final incident, Headway expressed the view:

“It cannot be that a player can make that decision – it has to be a medical decision and [doctors] have to be given the power to overrule both players and managers.”

Adding fuel to the debate, in the final, Germany’s Christoph Kramer was taken off with a head injury after 31 minutes, having played on for nearly 15 minutes, following a clash with Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay.

A brain injury is a brain injury.  If it happens as a result of negligence in the workplace, it is likely that there will be grounds for compensation – brain injury claims are already on the rise.  That applies whether the injured party is a professional footballer, a construction worker, or any employee.

The debate will continue, perhaps it is still in its infancy but still is a start.


Waiving employment rights via a settlement agreement

A settlement agreement (previously called a compromise agreement and sometimes called a severance agreement) is a legally binding agreement between an employee and employer to end an employment relationship or to resolve an ongoing workplace dispute. It is most often used to bring an employment relationship to an end with the employee and employer agreeing to settle a potential employment tribunal claim in return for an agreed financial sum, thereby allowing the parties to avoid litigation.

To be legally binding, a settlement agreement: must be in writing; it must relate to a particular complaint or proceedings; the employee must have received advice on it from a relevant independent adviser; the independent adviser must have a current contract of insurance or professional indemnity insurance; and the agreement must identify the adviser, and state that the applicable statutory conditions regulating settlement agreements has been satisfied.

The relevant independent adviser will usually be an employment lawyer but could also be a certified trade union official or a qualified legal executive.

The agreement will include the amount of the sum to be paid to the employee and details of the legal claims to be waived by the employee in return. The agreement may also include a confidentiality clause and provide for a fee contribution by the employer for the advice given to the employee.

Settlement agreements are negotiated between the parties “without prejudice”, ie they are inadmissible as evidence before an employment tribunal or other court proceedings.

The agreement will provide that the employer must pay the agreed settlement sum within a specified time and both parties must continue to abide by the agreed terms. Failure to do this may allow the disadvantaged party to bring a claim for breach of contract and claim damages in the county or high court.

Currently up to £30,000 can be received under a settlement agreement free of income tax and national insurance contributions. But payments that would otherwise have been received in employment and taxed, eg pay, remain taxable.

The employee will be unable to bring any associated employment tribunal claim relating to the terms of the agreement (with some exceptions, including accrued pension rights).

Claims settled via the Advisory and Conciliation Service (ACAS) may use a Central Office of Tribunals, form 3 (COT3) agreement rather than a settlement agreement. Once the parties agree a settlement sum in principle, ACAS will usually provide a standard form COT3 settlement agreement for approval. The agreed COT3 settlement wording forms a legally binding agreement.

Co-Operative Legal Services (Co-Op) offer detailed information on settlement agreements and other aspects of employment law such as constructive dismissal.