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Employment

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.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recently heard the case of Lopez Ribalda & Other v. Spain, concerning five workers in a supermarket chain who raised concerns regarding covert surveillance within their workplace.

The news in the past week has been dominated by stories about the gender pay gap and the differences in what men and women have been earning for the same roles in a number of organisations. The CEO of Easyjet reportedly agreed to take a pay cut of £34,000 to bring him in line with his female predecessor. The former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie stepped down from her role in early January after discovering that her male counterparts were earning significantly more than her. When she queried this, she was reportedly told that the difference was “because she was in development”. In its report into on-air salaries in the BBC, PWC also discovered a 6.8% gender pay gap amongst staff.

Revelations about the behaviour of  (all male) guest at the Presidents Club charity event held last week at the exclusive Dorchester hotel in London have been met with outrage and condemnation from many quarters and have reinforced calls for a review of the legal regime in relation to s exual harassment. Reports suggest the women hired as “hostesses” were repeatedly groped and invited by diners to join them in hotel bedrooms. One of the staff reported that a guest exposed himself to her. It was also suggested that the women were paid £150 for a six hours shift not including time spent at an after party where one woman was allegedly told to “rip off your knickers and dance on that table”. The fall out has led to beneficiaries of the charity to indicate that donations will be returned and to a decision to immediately wind up the organisation completely.

In the week of “Blue Monday”, reportedly the most depressing day of the year, and with the NHS allegedly “haemorrhaging” nurses due to work related stress, the need for mental health policies in the workplace has come under the spotlight. ACAS describes mental health as our “emotional, psychological, and social well-being, it affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, interact and relate to others, and make choices.” The World Health Organisation defines good mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

 

2017 was a big year for employment law and HR issues. In July 2017, the Supreme Court held that tribunal fees are unlawful. Since then, the official employment tribunal statistics have shown a 64% increase in claims, and it is likely that this upwards trend will continue in 2018. Several important ET and EAT cases on the so-called gig economy were decided, and the Taylor review was published, making various recommendations to overhaul the law on employment status. Towards the end of 2017, the news was dominated by successive sexual harassment scandals, and many employers are taking the opportunity to overhaul their own policies in this regard. Finally, hanging over all of this is the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit. Although various compromises have now been reached, for example in relation to the settled status of EU nationals who will have been continuously resident in the UK for 5 years on the date of exit, 29 March 2019, politicians have been quick to caveat that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

Chambers UK 2018

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