Monday 27 October 2008

Religious Discrimination

The EAT has held, in Saini v All Saints Haque Centre, that Regulation 5(1)(b) of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 will be breached not only where an employee is harassed on the grounds that he holds certain religious beliefs but also where he is harassed because someone else holds certain religious beliefs.

In reaching this conclusion, the EAT reasoned that:
  • regulation 5(1) requires conduct “on grounds of religion or belief” and as such, does not require the unwanted conduct to be on the grounds of the employee’s own religious beliefs.
  • such an interpretation is consistent with the aims and intention of the EC Framework Directive and with the judicial interpretation of the Race Relations Act 1976, which is similarly engaged where there is discriminatory conduct on the grounds of someone else’s race.
  • to use an employee in any manner in the implementation of a discriminatory policy is caught if the effect on the employee falls within any of the descriptions set out in paragraph 5(1)(b). The circumstances need not be confined to those where an employee has been instructed to act in a discriminatory fashion.
[Thanks to Sian Reeves, pupil barrister at 1 Temple Gardens, for summarising this case]

Age Discrimination

In Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v Homer, the EAT held that a requirement that an employee had to have a law degree to be entitled to graded at a higher pay scale did not put a 61-year old employee at a particular disadvantage on the grounds of his age, even though he could not have obtained a degree (studying part-time) before he retired.

The EAT (Elias P. presiding) reasoned:

  • the requirement of a law degree was not something required only of those over a certain age. Nor was it in principle more difficult for an older person to obtain the qualification that it was a younger person.
  • whilst the Claimant could not materially benefit from any law degree he might obtain, that was because his working life was limited by his age. The EAT described such a disadvantage as "the inevitable consequence of age; it is not a consequence of age discrimination" (para 39), drawing an analogy with an employee who complained that a universal payrise was discriminatory because he, being closer to retirement, had less time than younger colleagues to enjoy it.

The decision need not however spell all doom and gloom for Claimants. Had Mr Homer been able to establish the requisite disadvantage, the EAT stated that it would have upheld the tribunal's finding that any age discrimination was not justified as the requirement was not a proportionate means of achieving the recruitment and retention of appropriately qualified staff.

[Thanks to Sian Reeves, pupil barrister at 1 Temple Gardens, for providing this case summary]

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Working Time Regulations - Rest Breaks

In Commissionaires Management v Hughes, a case dealing with several aspects of rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations 1998, the EAT has held:-

  • that an employee is only entitled to one rest break once he has worked more than six hours; he is not entitled to a subsequent rest break if he works for twelve hours (paras. 15-16)
  • where a rest break cannot be taken at the correct time, a proper compensatory rest break must be offered. It is not enough to say that an employee can rest between shifts (paras. 25-29)
  • a claim can only be brought in respect of rest breaks for the three month period before presentation of a claim (six months if the statutory grievance applies). The concept of 'continuing breaches' to enable further backdating does not apply here (para. 42)

Monday 20 October 2008

Stress at Work Claims

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in Dickens v O2 plc, dismissing O2’s appeal against the trial judge’s finding that O2 was liable for stress induced personal injury suffered by one of its employees.

Whilst purporting to apply the guidance given in Hatton v Sutherland, the Court's application of that guidance to the facts before them arguably indicated that the requirements of reasonable foreseeability, breach and causation may not be as difficult for claimants to satisfy as a strict reading of Hatton may have suggested.
  • In relation to reasonable foreseeability, it was sufficient that the employee had previously complained about the stress of her job, had been coming into work late on a regular basis, and had told her line manager that she did not know how long she could keep going before she would become ill;
  • In relation to breach of duty, O2 ought to have sent its employee home pending urgent investigation by occupational health, even in circumstances where she had not been signed off sick by her GP. The Court held that the mere suggestion of confidential counselling was not an adequate response to a situation where an employee was complaining of severe stress;
  • In relation to causation, the Court inferred a sufficient causal connection between the breach and the illness, finding the series of failings by O2 to address her problems had materially contributed to her illness.
  • In relation to apportionment, the Court indicated that there should be no across the board percentage reduction to damages for the contribution to the illness made by non-tortious causes, doubting the correctness of Hale LJ’s remarks in Hatton on this point.
[Thanks to Bruce Gardiner of 2 Temple Gardens, who acted for the Defendant, for providing this case summary]

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Names of all ET Respondents to be published

The Information Commissioner's Office has ruled that the identity of all Respondents to employment tribunal cases has to be disclosed by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the government department responsible for tribunal policy, under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The ICO Press Release states that "The new ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office paves the way for the material to be released routinely once again." Details of parties to tribunal cases previously appeared in a Register, but this ceased in 2001 following concerns that commercial organisations targeted parties (including represented parties) offering to represent them in tribunal cases.

To view the Decision Notice, click here. Note that this decision is concerned with the identity of Respondents only; not Claimants. Far stronger privacy arguments will exist in connection with the identity of Claimants.

Friday 10 October 2008

Age Discrimination - ECJ Judgment

[Thanks to Louise Jones of 1 Temple Gardens for providing this summary]

The ECJ has held, in Bartsch v Bosch, that where there is no link with Community law, it is not mandatory for a Member State to apply the prohibition against age discrimination.

Mrs Bartsch, a German national, was 21 years younger than her husband, a former BSH employee. Under their pension policy, although spouses were normally entitled to pension payments, upon his death, she was not so entitled, as BSH had a guideline that they would not make payments if the widow/widower was more than 15 years younger than the former employee. Mr Bartsch died before Germany had implemented the EC Equal Treatment Framework Directive 2000/78, and BSH imposed their guideline against Mrs Bartsch.

Mrs Bartsch challenged this in the German labour courts unsuccessfully, but the Landesarbeitsgericht (Higher Labour Court) made a reference to the ECJ: was the prohibition under Community law of discrimination on the ground of age is mandatory where the allegedly discriminatory treatment contains no link with Community law? It was also significant that the guideline had been implemented by BSH before Germany had implemented Directive 2000/78; the time-limit for implementation had yet to expire.

The Court distinguished Mangold [2005], where the national rules in question were a measure specifically implementing a directive, so the national measure had fallen within the scope of Community law. The difference in the index case was that the guidelines at issue do not correspond to measures transposing Community provisions.

The Court held that neither the Equal Treatment Framework Directive, nor Article 13 EC, enable a situation such as Mrs Bartsch’s to be brought within the scope of Community law. The kind of scheme in question was not covered by the legal framework of the Directive or Article 13.

[Thanks also to Katherine Apps of Littleton Chambers for telling me about this case]

Monday 6 October 2008


The EAT's decision this week in Grosvenor v Aylesford School is notable simply for its bizarre facts (paras. 10-14), as well as the comment that teachers who remove their clothing on a school coach might find themselves facing a reduction in award for contributory fault (paras 35 + 36).

But it is also a reminder that:

  • delay, even if it is excessive, is not normally a free-standing ground of appeal. In a case where the tribunal was giving regular consideration to the case in Chambers throughout the lengthy period of reserving the judgment, then there was no error of law to correct(paras. 2-6).
  • a tribunal has a wide discretion in dealing with just and equitable extension of time and the manner in which the question is dealt with at the tribunal is unlikley to raise an error of law, taking into account the fact that the issue was flagged up early on in proceedings (para. 20).

[Thanks to Ed McFarlane of RBS Mentor for telling me about this case and providing the summary]

Friday 3 October 2008

Time Off for Emergencies

The EAT has held, in RBS v Harrison, that entitlement to parental leave under s.57A(1)(d) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 because of the unexpected disruption or termination of care arrangements for dependents, is not limited to last minute unavailability or emergencies.

The issue that arose for consideration by the EAT was as to the meaning of “necessary” and “unexpected” in s.57A(1). RBS sought to argue that as Mrs Harrison had been notified of the unavailability of her childminder two weeks prior, the termination could not be said to be unexpected. The EAT disagreed. By a process of statutory interpretation, the EAT stated that:

  • that the passage of time between the employee’s discovery of the forthcoming disruption of care arrangements and that disruption taking effect was to be considered as part of the question whether it was “necessary” for an employee to take the take off (s.57A(1))
  • the word “unexpected” does not involve a time element. There was no warrant for the insertion of the words “sudden” or “in emergency” into s.57A(1)(d)

[Thanks to Sian Reeves, pupil barrister at 1 Temple Gardens, for providing this summary]

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Fixed Term Employee's

The EAT has held, in DCSF v Fletcher, that a legal obligation limiting employment to 9 years is not - without more - enough to amount to 'justification' under the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable) Treatment Regulations 2002.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families employs teachers who teach at various European Schools. Under EU secondary legislation dating back to 1994, agreed by 27 other member states, their period at the school is limited to nine years.

A teacher, Mr Fletcher, said that the 9-year rule offended the Fixed Term Employee Regulations. The EAT, HHJ McMullen QC presiding, agreed. The EAT stated that the:

  • the 1999 EU Fixed Term Employee Directive impliedly repeals an earlier (1994) piece of legislation, insofar as the earlier legislation is incompatible
  • if the underlying rule (9 years maximum) is not itself objectively justified, the fact it has been agreed by 27 Member States cannot - without more - justify it
This is quite a difficult issue, and permission has been given to appeal to the Court of Appeal.