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Employment

When faced with the need to reduce staff costs, one of the options employers often consider is changing terms and conditions of employment, for example reducing salaries or benefits to bring down costs while avoiding the need for redundancies. However, a contract of employment, like any other contract, requires the consent of both parties for changes to be effective. This can leave employers in difficult situations where employees refuse to consent to variations in their contracts which would be disadvantageous to them.

To establish that they have been directly discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010, a person needs to show that they have been treated less favourably than another person, known as a comparator, whose circumstances are not materially different than their own, because of one of the protected characteristics (such as sex).

The beginning of April brings important changes in employment law. This week, we highlight some of the most notable developments to have on your radar.

Clive Humby, the engineer of Tesco’s Clubcard, was widely credited as the first to use the phrase: “Data is the new oil.” Since this statement 12 years ago, many organisations have been mining, collecting and analysing data to spot patterns or trends to help tailor products and services for their clients with considerable implications for the use and potential misuse of this valuable commodity.

Pregnant employees are afforded special protection under the law, especially with regard to dismissal and redundancy. A woman is in the so-called “protected period” from the start of her pregnancy until the end of her maternity leave, and a dismissal or selection for redundancy which is because of her pregnancy or maternity leave is classed as automatically unfair. Where a dismissal is automatically unfair, there is no requirement for an employee to have two complete years of continuous employment before being able to raise an unfair dismissal claim and there is no upper limit on the compensatory award. Such a dismissal is also likely to amount to unlawful discrimination on grounds of pregnancy or maternity under the Equality Act.

Most employers and employees will be aware of the requirement on employers with more than 250 employees to publish certain specific information relating to their gender pay gap by 4 April under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. Many employers have already gone public with their reports and these can be viewed on the Government website https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/Viewing/search-results..

OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator, has recently reiterated their guidance in relation to the safeguarding of individuals and the reporting of “notifiable events”. The guidance follows a series of high profile reports involving third sector organisations triggered by the allegation that Oxfam staff paid survivors of the Haitian earthquake for sex. Whilst Oxfam stated that they had launched a full investigation in to the incident, the Charity Commission for England and Wales has stated that it was not given full details about the use of prostitutes by aid workers.

Following substantial delay, the Government has now published its response to the Taylor Review, which was commissioned in response to issues arising out of the so-called “gig economy”, and a number of high profile Employment Tribunal cases against the likes of Uber and Deliveroo in which individuals challenged their classification as contractors rather than workers or employees, and sought access to various employment rights.

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