UK announces 2-year post-study work visa for international students

In the years 2017 – 2018 the
number of international students studying here in the UK was 458,490 and the UK is at present the second most popular study destination worldwide. A report
completed for the Government by the Migration Advisory Committee in September last year however, indicated that the UK runs the risk of being overtaken for second spot by Southern Hemisphere rival Australia.

With course costs for international students being significantly higher than those for ‘home’ students educational institutions from all over the UK benefit from the revenue that international students bring.

Would the Labour Party’s employment reforms work?

On 10 September, the Labour Party put forward plans to create a Ministry for Employment Rights and a Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce those rights.

The proposals which, obviously, would only see if the light of day if Labour won a General Election, whenever such an election may occur, are ambitious and, naturally, rather scant on detail at the moment. But, despite this, let’s have a look at a few of their proposals for changes to employment law to see if they are realistic and workable!

Sacked for using a plastic cup?!


Intelligent Hand Dryers, a Company based in Sheffield specialising in, well, Hand Dryers, has recently introduced a ban on its employees using single use plastic including plastic water bottles, sandwich wrappers with plastic ‘windows’, and disposable coffee cups with plastic linings, in order to reduce its environmental impact.

The owner of the Company, Andrew Cameron, has made the above a disciplinary offence and stated that if employees receive three warnings and continue to ignore this policy, they could be dismissed.  The environmental benefits, if more businesses were to impose such policies, are obvious however is it fair to effectively make this a condition of employment?  Surely the choice of an employee to buy a sandwich from a well-known supermarket at lunch time does not hinder their ability to perform their role?

Employment Law Snippet – No.2 – Is being Jedi a religion or belief?

Hello and welcome to our second Employment Law Snippet article. As usual, this article aims to focus on one general topic and engage in an interesting, non-jargon filled discussion on how that subject matter may affect employees and employers alike. Naturally, the below involves (quite a bit of) simplification of the law and isn’t set out out as any form of actual legal advice!

This week’s topic is a quirky one: Jedi! Yes, this is inspired by 0.8% of the 2001 UK census forms having ‘Jedi’ entered under ‘religion’. You may well be thinking ‘what on earth does the Jedi faith from Star Wars have to do with employment law?’ Well, as usual, an interesting question usually leads to an interesting answer…

Firstly, before tackling the big question, why is the definition of a “religion or belief” within the Equality Act 2010 important for employers? Simply put, it is important because it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of their ‘religion and/or beliefs or lack of religion or beliefs’.

A blog on blogging based on a blogging blog

Right, so I like a good blog on employment law-related topics and, in this blog, I’m looking to blog about employee blogging, even if those blogs are about blogs (or not blogs at all). Clear? Of course not, the only near guaranteed thing is that, by now, the word ‘blog’ has probably started to lose meaning in that way that words do when constantly repeated.

On a slightly more serious side, this article is about what happens when an employee publishes content (whether on social media, within physical media (including a local or national newspaper) or within personal blogs) that potentially harms the reputation of their employer. Where is the line drawn between innocent, harmless blog and, on the other hand, an online article or post that seriously harms the business of an employer?

As per the above title, I briefly covered this topic around 4 years ago in a past blog post. That article mentioned the rather quirky case of Walters v Asda Stores, heard in 2008, in which a manager jokingly (I hope!) posted a message stating that, whilst she was supposed to love her customers, hitting them with a pickaxe would make her much happier… The Employment Tribunal found that Asda had focused too much on the mere fact she was a Manager rather than considering other factors (such as, I would image, how many people would have seen the post, would those people have actually thought she was being serious and/or would people really judge Asda for staff members occasionally making slightly inappropriate jokey remarks outside work) and ruled that the dismissal was unfair.

Employment Law Snippet – No.1 – Tattoos

Hello and welcome to our first Employment Law Snippet article. These conversational articles aim to focus on one general topic and then have an interesting, non-jargon filled discussion on how that subject affects employees and employers alike.

The first topic is an interesting one: tattoos! You may be thinking “what on earth do tattoos have to do with employment law?” Well, not that much at present but that may start to change in the future.

Are tattoos that important a consideration within employment law? Well, to start, I regularly hear employment-related tales of friends of friends and, recently, I heard about a young woman in her twenties going to a job interview and all, initially at least, going very well with the interviewer. That is, until the interviewer noticed the small floral tattoo on her wrist (which barely poked out from underneath her small watch) and, from that moment, the interviewer appeared to ‘go off’ her, cut the interview short and, lo and behold, she didn’t get the job (which, for the record, wasn’t in a customer facing position).

Competing interests lead to more confusion concerning NDAs

On 21 July (oddly given that it was a Sunday) the Government announced what it described as “measures to prevent misuse of confidentiality clauses in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination. Frankly the press releases are light on detail. However, the four main changes are as follows:

  • Employers will have to make clear the limitations of a confidentiality clause, in plain English, within the settlement agreement and in the form of a written statement for the employee. In other words there will have to be a notice to the employee within the agreement which clearly explains what the clause does not cover.
  • Current legislation will be extended so that it will be a requirement for all individuals signing an NDA (whether or not contained within a settlement agreement) to obtain what is described as enhanced independent legal advice, presumably at the employer’s expense. This is potentially interesting because it raises the possibility that employees may need to obtain such advice at the commencement of or during employment, perhaps even before the commencement of employment. Much will depend on the definition of what constitutes a regulated NDA and that information, perhaps unsurprisingly, has not been published.
  • All NDAs must make clear that the restrictions will not prevent the employee from disclosing the otherwise protected information to the police, regulated care and health professionals, social workers and, interestingly, legal professionals. As matters stand, most settlement agreements include a confidentiality clause which provides that not only the terms but even the existence of the agreement must be kept confidential, save for immediate family members and relevant professional advisers (i.e. those advising the employee concerning the agreement).
  • Enforcement measures will introduced to deal with settlement agreements and written statements of employment particulars that do not comply with the regulations, including that non-compliant NDAs will be legally void.

Can an employee who does not have the right to work in the United Kingdom bring a successful employment law claim?

The ‘illegality principle’ prevents a court from aiding a claimant who has based their claim on an immoral or illegal act, meaning that a tribunal or court will generally not enforce an illegal contract.

An employer of an individual working under an illegal contract can raise a defence against any employment claims the individual may bring against them. This is what is known as the ‘illegality
defence’, the basis of which is that the contract is illegal and therefore void, so the claim should not succeed.

A common example of an individual working under an ‘illegal contract’ would be an employee who is working in the UK despite not having the right to – i.e. working illegally, in breach of immigration laws.

In recent years, tribunals and civil courts have been reluctant to allow an employer to use the illegality defence to block vulnerable migrant workers’ employment tribunal claims.

An interesting Court of Appeal decision has further illustrated this. The case of Okedina v Chikale, has shown that an employer cannot always automatically rely on a breach of immigration rules to argue that an employment contract is unenforceable. The matter concerned contractual claims (including unfair dismissal) brought by a Malawian national whose leave to remain (and right to work) in the UK had expired two years before the time she was summarily dismissed.

Calculating holiday pay for workers with ‘irregular’ hours

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR’s) state that workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ leave per year with part-time workers being entitled to a pro-rated amount of this figure. For example, an employee working full time would be entitled to 28 days per year (5 days x 5.6 = 28) whereas a part-time employee working say 3 days per week, would be entitled to 16.8 days per year (3 days x 5.6 = 16.8 days).

The above is clearly a straightforward calculation, however the situation becomes more complicated for workers who do not have ‘normal working hours’. Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) if an employee works irregular hours, their holiday pay should be calculated using an average of their pay over the last 12 weeks. On the basis that the 5.6 weeks leave entitlement amounts to 12.07% of a worker’s hours (12.07% reached by dividing 5.6 by 46.4 (total number of weeks in a year less 5.6 weeks holiday), employers have generally calculated holiday pay as 12.07% of pay for each hour worked (i.e. the assumption was that the calculation for both the amount of holidays and holiday pay, would be the same). The recent case of The Harpur Trust v Brazel however, shows that the same approach does not work for both…

Employment Law: A study of Peanuts

I’ve just passed two years’ service here at Canter Levin & Berg and, during that time, if my colleagues were asked to describe my obvious passions in two words, those words would be probably be ‘penguins’ and ‘Snoopy’. That wouldn’t be surprising considering that my office contains a Snoopy resting on his doghouse, penguin figurines and numerous colleagues regularly receive Snoopy pictures within internal emails…

From time-to-time, I use hypothetical examples to demonstrate employment law principles and solutions and, within blogs, I tend to slip in the odd character from the Peanuts universe. Fun fact? The creator of Peanuts had the title fostered upon him by newspaper editors and hated it to such an extent that when asked about Peanuts he always referred to it as ‘that comic with Charlie Brown and his dog’.

From time-to-time, I use hypothetical examples to demonstrate employment law principles and solutions and, within blogs, I tend to slip in the odd character from the Peanuts universe. Fun fact? The creator of Peanuts had the title fostered upon him by newspaper editors and hated it to such an extent that when asked about Peanuts he always referred to it as ‘that comic with Charlie Brown and his dog’.