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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.

While some homebuyers find it hard to see past the benefits a new-build property can provide and envisage themselves in a perfectly finished home designed precisely for their style of modern living, for others, the allure of a period property remains strong.

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.

The Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (“OPRED”) issued a consultation (“Consultation”) on 18 January 2018 in relation to the introduction of The Offshore Environmental Civil Sanctions Regulations 2018 (the “Regulations”). The relatively short consultation period closes on 15 February 2018. Strangely, the Consultation has been issued in the middle of an informal consultation on the same matter (issued by OPRED on 22 December 2017) which remains open for comment until 25 January 2018.

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”.

Recent publicity about an English Court of Appeal ruling on the rights of unmarried couples has highlighted the misunderstanding that many people have about their rights following their partner’s death.

Chambers UK 2018

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