Thursday 28 January 2016

Upper Tribunal holds damages for injury for feelings are taxable

Thanks to James English of Hempsons solicitors for preparing this case summary
Is a payment in respect of injury to feelings made on the termination of employment subject to tax?

Yes, held the Tax and Chancery Chamber of the Upper Tribunal in Moorthy v The Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

The Claimant was made redundant. He then brought claims of unfair dismissal and age discrimination, which related entirely to his dismissal. By a settlement, the Claimant was paid an ex gratia sum of £200,000 by his employer, who treated £30,000 as tax exempt under s401 of ITEPA 2003 and deducted tax at basic rate from the remainder.

In his tax return, the Claimant treated the balance as tax free. HMRC disagreed and issued a closure notice treating an extra £140,023 as taxable income but they did make a concession to treat a further £30,000 as damages for injury to feelings arising from age discrimination, and so not taxable.

The Claimant appealed. The First Tier Tribunal held that the balance was taxable. The Claimant appealed again.

The Upper Tribunal upheld the decision. Section 406(b) of ITEPA treats a payment "on account of injury to an employee" as not taxable, but that must be a medical condition. 'Injury' is akin to death or disability. It does not include injury to feelings. It applies to payments in connection with the termination of employment, or a change of duties or earnings. The Upper Tribunal noted that there appeared to be an anomalous distinction that compensation for discrimination during employment is not taxable, so that compensation may have to be apportioned between events before and after termination for tax purposes.

Acas Early Conciliation

Thanks to Jamie Anderson of Trinity Chambers for preparing this case summary
Is an employment tribunal prevented from adding a Respondent to proceedings where the Respondent being added is not named on the Early Conciliation certificate?

No, held the EAT in Drake International Systems Ltd and Others v Blue Arrow Ltd.

Having commenced proceedings, the Claimant (a transferee seeking to claim against a transferor) sought to amend the claim to add four subsidiary companies as Respondents.

Upholding the decision to allow the amendment, Langstaff P held that a claim had been properly instituted. The subsequent decision to allow the addition of a Respondent was a case management decision in which the employment tribunal has a discretion to be exercised in accordance with the longstanding principles set out inSelkent Bus Co v Moore [1996] ICR 836.

The case is worth a read as Langstaff P sets out a number of policy considerations underlying the Early Conciliation regime. He concludes by noting that a "happy consequence" of his reasoning is that satellite litigation (as occurred under the now repealed dispute resolution procedures) could be avoided.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

National Living / Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2016 have been made, and come into force on 1 April 2016.

They make it clear - if there was ever any doubt - that the 'National Living Wage' for over-25 year olds promised by the Government last year is nothing more than a tweak to the minimum wage regulations.

The new minimum wages from 1 April 2016 will be:-
  • age 25+ - £7.20ph (the National Living Wage)
  • 21-25 - £6.70ph
  • 18-21 - £5.30ph
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  • apprentices - £3.30ph.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Acas Early Conciliation

Thanks to Keira Gore of Outer Temple Chambers for preparing this case summary
Does an error in the identification of a Respondent in an Acas early conciliation certificate prevent the employment tribunal from accepting a claim?

No, held the EAT in Mist v Derby Community NHS Trust.

The first Respondent was named correctly in the Claimant's ET1, but incorrectly on the Acas EC certificate. The second Respondent, which was joined at a later date, challenged the Claimant's compliance with the EC provisions. HHJ Eady QC rejected the second Respondent's arguments in relation to the EC provisions:

1) s18A ETA 1996 requires a Claimant to provide prescribed information to Acas. This includes the prospective Respondent's name, but not its full legal title. If relevant information is absent Acas may reject the notification or contact the Claimant to obtain any missing information. In this case Acas did not reject the notification and the employment tribunal was entitled to treat the EC certificate as conclusive in terms of the Claimant's compliance with s18A.

2) rule 12(2A) of the ET Rules 2013 provides that an Employment Judge can decide that a claim should not be rejected where there is a difference between the Respondent's details in the ET1 and the EC certificate.

3) as for the application to join the second Respondent, this fell to be considered as a possible amendment to an existing claim and did not require a further EC notification.

Monday 25 January 2016

EAT Practice Direction

The Employment Appeal Tribunal wishes to remind advocates about the July 2015 Practice Direction.

In particular, advocates' attention is drawn to the section on Notices of Appeal, and the rule that the grounds of appeal should normally be no more than two pages long. The consequences of overly prolix Grounds of Appeal are set out in paragraph 7 of the Practice Direction.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Police Misconduct Panels Immune from Discrimination Claims

Thanks to Rad Kohanzad of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers for preparing this case summary
Can a police officer bring a claim against a Police Misconduct Board for discriminating against her?

No, held the Court of Appeal in P v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

The Claimant, a serving Police Officer, suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of an assault suffered at work. Whilst in drink, she was involved in an incident which led to her arrest and dismissal, which she contended arose in consequence of her PTSD.

She claimed that, in dismissing her, the Police Misconduct Board discriminated against her by treating her unfavourably for something arising in consequence of her disability, and failing to make reasonable adjustments.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, upholding the decisions of the employment tribunal and EAT that the Police Misconduct Board was a judicial body and therefore enjoyed immunity from suit. This does not, of course, prevent a police officer from bringing a discrimination or whistleblowing claim against their Chief Constable.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Unpaid Awards and Settlements - Penalty Notices

According to a written answer in Hansard, the Government is intending to bring the new 'unpaid award penalties' into force from April 2016.

Contained in the new ss37A-37Q of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996, the Government will issue a 'warning notice' if any awards or settlements remain unpaid. If the monies remain unpaid, then the employer will be subject to a 'penalty notice' of 50% of the outstanding amount, subject to a £100 minimum and £5,000 maximum. The money is payable to the Secretary of State, not the employee.

This is additional to the financial penalty which has been payable in claims presented after April 2014, where 'aggravating features' exist, when a tribunal can order the employer to pay an additional 50% (subject to the same maximum and minimum).

Interim Briggs Report Published

Lord Justice Briggs has published his interim report on the civil courts structure.

In paragraphs 11.8 to 11.18, he tentatively recommends that ETs and the EAT be moved within the civil court structure (rather than staying where they are, described at paragraph 3.63 as "their rather lonely existence", or being moved fully into the Tribunals Service).

Comments are invited on the interim report by the end of February, with a view to the final report being published in July 2016.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Case Management Orders

Thanks to Andrew Smith of Matrix Chambers for preparing this case summary
When may an Employment Tribunal vary a case management order?

Rarely, holds the EAT in Serco Ltd v Wells.

An Employment Judge had made an order listing a preliminary hearing (PH) to consider the claimant's length of service. As the proceedings continued, an agreed list of 96 issues was drawn up for use at the full hearing. A different Judge then considered whether holding the PH was "realistic" given the fact that a 10-day full hearing had already been listed, and revoked the order.

The employer appealed to the EAT. The focus of the appeal was on the meaning of rule 29 of the Employment Tribunal Rules 2013, which provides that a tribunal may "vary, suspend or set aside an earlier case management order where that is necessary in the interests of justice".

In another accessible judgment providing a comprehensive review of the authorities (in this case, those arising from the current and past employment tribunal rules as well as from the Civil Procedure Rules 1998), HHJ Hand QC took a restrictive view of the Tribunal's powers. Put simply, a case management order will not be susceptible to variation or revocation unless "there has been a material change of circumstances since the order was made", "where the order has been based on either a misstatement", or in "rare" circumstances which are "out of the ordinary".

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Monitoring Employees' Use of the Internet

Is the right to respect for private life and correspondence breached if employers monitor employees' personal communications at work?

No, subject to reasonableness/proportionality, according to the European Court of Human Rights in Barbulescu v Romania.

Mr Barbulescu was an engineer who used his business Yahoo Messenger account to send and receive personal messages with his fiancee and his brother, including messages about his health and sex life.  This was in breach of his employment contract.  His employer, discovering this accidentally, dismissed him.  Mr Barbulescu argued that the Rumanian courts should have excluded all evidence of his personal communications on the grounds it infringed his Convention rights to privacy.

The European Court of Human Rights held that Article 8 (right to respect for private life and correspondence) was engaged, but that the Rumanian courts were entitled to look at that evidence in deciding whether the dismissal was justified.  The European Court was swayed by the fact that the Romanian court judgment did not reveal the precise content of the personal messages, but only the fact that they were personal messages.  The Court recognised the need for employers to be able to verify that employees are completing professional tasks during working hours.

Monday 11 January 2016

Zero Hour Contracts

At last, some real protection has been introduced for zero hour contract workers.

In force today, The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 provide that:-
  • any dismissal of a zero hour contract employee is automatically unfair, if the principal reason is that s/he breached a contractual clause prohibiting him/her from working for another employer
  • no qualifying period is required to bring such an unfair dismissal claim; and,
  • it is also unlawful to submit a zero hour worker (note: worker not employee) to detriments if they work for another employer in breach of a clause prohibiting them from doing so.

Friday 8 January 2016

Territorial Jurisdiction: Seafarers

[Thanks to Benjamin Jones, pupil barrister at Littleton Chambers, for preparing this case summary.]

Do British seafarers employed on ships operating wholly or principally outside of UK territorial waters “ordinarily work in Great Britain under their contracts” for the purposes of s.1 Pensions Act 2008?

In R (Fleet Maritime Services (Bermuda) Limited) v The Pensions Regulator the High Court (Leggatt J) determined that they do if they work from a ‘base’ in Britain, but that this will not be the case if they do not habitually begin and end their tours of duty from a British port.

The Regulator issued the Bermuda-incorporated Claimant with a compliance notice for failing to auto-enrol British-domiciled seafarers regularly working aboard its cruise ships. The Claimant brought a judicial review because its ships operated principally outside of British territorial waters.

The Court concluded that the Lawson v Serco approach to determining a peripatetic worker's ‘base’ for the purposes of unfair dismissal jurisdiction was also applicable to the 2008 Act. The Court further determined that, irrespective of duration aboard, seafarers are, under the 2008 Act, based at the port from which their tours of duty generally begin and end not aboard the ship itself or under its flag state. For the Act to apply some degree of regularity is also required, a single tour cannot establish a base.

Days spent traveling between Britain and foreign ports of embarkation, whilst remunerated, were also properly treated as commuting, not work. As such the Regulator had erred in finding a duty in relation to those of the Claimant’s employees whose tours did not habitually commence from British ports.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

New Resources

There are some useful resources, just published, which some practitioners may find interesting/helpful.

First, a House of Commons Briefing Paper on Whistleblowing and Gagging Clauses.  It's remarkably good, particularly on the public interest test.

Second, two Acas Guides - one on conducting workplace investigations, the other on dealing with legal highs in the workplace.