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Insurance firm Aviva produced a report this week finding that in the UK, 6.4 million over-50s workers were planning to retire later than they expected compared to 10 years ago. The report found that this was due to the rising cost of living and insufficient pension savings. Government research predicts that by the mid-2030s half of all adults in the UK will be over 50 years of age. By 2025 there will be 300,000 fewer UK-born under 30s. This development combined with the UK’s proposed departure from the EU resulting in fewer EU workers arriving means that there is likely to be a huge increase in necessary reliance on older workers within the UK economy. Aviva are accordingly urging businesses to “increase their commitment to older employees and help them adapt to a longer working life.”

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination and harassment on the grounds of nine “protected characteristics”, one of which is religion or belief. While it is relatively straightforward to identify religions and religious beliefs that are granted protection under the act, courts have grappled in recent years with what types of philosophical beliefs should be protected.

Employers have for many years used confidentiality clauses or non-disclosure agreements, commonly known as “NDAs”, in employment contracts and settlement agreements. The recent high-profile scandals of the President’s Club dinner, where female workers were presented with confidentiality agreements that they had to sign before they could start work, and the Harvey Weinstein affair has led to the exposure of the use (and abuse) of such arrangements and debate as to whether they involve the improper “gagging” of individuals and allow employers and perpetrators of sexual harassment to avoid scrutiny and indeed the proper consequence of their actions. This week the House of Commons Women and Equalities Commission published a report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, which included a section on the “advantages and disadvantages of using non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases, including how inappropriate use of such agreements might be tackled”.

In the case of DL Insurance Ltd v Mrs O’Connor, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) concluded that a disabled employee who was disciplined for over 60 days’ absence over a 12-month period had been subject to discrimination. The outcome has potentially major implications for employers and their ability to apply absence management procedures to disabled employees.

Immigration has remained one of the “hot topics” dominating the news in recent weeks. Theresa May came under considerable pressure earlier this month after media reports that 100 Indian doctors had had their applications for Tier 2 work visas refused due to the cap on immigration put in place in 2011. Up to 40% of the annual quota for Tier 2 visas are issued to NHS employees, but the service still struggles to recruit and maintain sufficient staffing levels to deal with requirements.

 

Following the introduction of the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, one of the changes that has often been overlooked by employers has been the impact on the provision of references. Providing a reference about an employee to a prospective employer, will generally involve the disclosure and therefore the processing of personal data and so will accordingly need to be compliant with data protection law.

The concept of “discrimination arising from disability” was introduced by Equality Act 2010. It replaced the former concept of “disability-related discrimination”, which had become very difficult for claimants to establish due to a decision by the House of Lords which altered the way in which comparators in such cases were viewed. The Government felt that it needed to reduce the burden on claimants by making it easier for them to establish a case where they had experienced detrimental treatment because of their disability.

Despite the recent focus on gender and sexual harassment issues it is worth recalling that there other forms of discrimination in the workplace which merit attention. Recently the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) campaigning organisation, Stonewall published a “Work Report" indicating the outcome of a survey of more than 5000 LGBT people about their life in Britain today.   The results provide some uncomfortable reading for those concerned about workplace equality issues. They include key findings that:

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