The Law Commission has published its report into Employment Law Hearing Structures and made some significant and, in my view very sensible proposals. The report runs to 212 pages so I’ll just highlight a few of the key points, which I think would be welcomed by employment law practitioners and tribunal users alike. Time limits…
Last night, I watched the middle half of The Dark Knight Rises (the final Christian Bale Batman movie). It wasn’t planned and we didn’t even finish the move as it was part of a social evening with guests which ended in a random film to half chat over. However, there was one scene which caught…
Former chambermaid wins unfair dismissal claim after being sacked for having ‘dementia or Alzheimers’
Wendy Boyle was employed by the Respondent Steve Brundle, a Director of North Norfolk Ltd who are owners of the Dormy House Hotel, West Runton. Mrs Boyle was employed from September 2015 – February 2018, seemingly without issue, until Mr Brundle dismissed her stating that he had no further need for a chambermaid as he…
No matter how much employers might wish that it was not the case, even if they are meant to be confidential and not part of a published pay scale, employees tend to find out what other employees are earning. If there are discrepancies, real or perceived, this can lead to friction. If there is a…
Everyone has a film they don’t usually admit to liking. For some people, it is Mamma Mia (no, not mine). For others, it might be a terrible James Bond film (Quantum of Solace anyone?) or something for the kids (Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs perhaps?) My film-related guilty pleasure is easy: 500 Days…
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.
A recent case in the London Central Employment Tribunals has touched on some very topical issues concerning the Labour Party, as well as considering whether activities undertaken by an employee outside the workplace can impact negatively on the employment relationship.
In Mr S E Keable v London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Mr Stan Keable brought a claim of unfair dismissal against Hammersmith and Fulham Council (HFC) when he was dismissed after a video showing him arguing that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis went viral on Twitter and was picked up by a Newsnight journalist, David Grossman.
Mr Keable worked for HFC from 2001 until his dismissal on 30 May 2018 and his employment record was blemish free. He was a political activist and was a member of the Labour Party until he was expelled as a result of his membership of Labour Party Marxists, a non-affiliated organisation.
The employer’s terms and conditions included a requirement to “avoid any conduct inside or outside of work which may discredit you and/or the Council”.
Let’s start by instantly getting some employment law myths out of the way. Firstly, can an employer safely ban workplace relationships? No. Secondly, can an employee safely ban relationships between members of the same team? No (except in very limited circumstances). And, finally, can action be taken if a relationship blossoms between two members of a same sex team and other members of that team have religion-based objections? Absolutely not!
So, why the theme? Well, at present, the nation seems to be gripped by Love Island which, for the uninitiated, sees strangers gather in a villa in Majorca and attempt relationships with each other (a ‘romantic Big Brother’ if you like). Naturally, as the weeks go by, attempted couplings fail and people start dating ex-partners of other islanders with their former flames in the same vicinity which, as you can imagine, causes many
fireworks and causes everyone to go a bit drama llama.
In my line of work, you do semi-regularly come across employers who believe they are able to take action against staff simply due to the fact they are within a relationship (whether that be moving teams, locations and/or even considering dismissal). This appears to come from American TV where, within numerous comedies and dramas, you see characters hiding workplace relationships because, firstly, a form needs completing to put it on record and, secondly, it could put the employment of one of them at risk.
Dealing with sickness absence is a persistent problem for many employers, particularly when dealing with the apparent dichotomy between potentially fair dismissal on the ground of extended sickness absence and discrimination based on disability. The issue reared its head once again in the recent case of Muller v London Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
Mr Muller, a paramedic, injured himself when falling out the back of an ambulance while on duty in March 2016. He never returned to work and was dismissed 11 months later. His main injury was to his right shoulder which did not heal during this time. By the time of his dismissal he had not had the required surgery, let alone sufficient time to recuperate thereafter. A contributory factor to the delay was that a tear in the cartilage around the shoulder joint was not diagnosed until November or December 2016. A steroid injection in January made little difference and an arthroscopy was scheduled for 14 March, just over two weeks after he was dismissed.
As well as claiming that his dismissal was premature, Mr Muller said that the Trust had a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate his disability, e.g. by providing him with office based work. As it happened, the arthroscopy confirmed that there was a tear which was repaired by surgery in July 2017. In January 2018 Mr Muller returned to occasional front line duties with a private ambulance service.
The Trust had encouraged him to apply for other jobs. There was a redeployment scheme. Mr Muller applied for a job in the archive department but was unsuccessful. In any event, he did not want a permanent reassignment.
He submitted a claim to an Employment Tribunal, for unfair dismissal, direct sex discrimination (a female comparator had been provided with office based work), disability discrimination based on failure to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination in connection with his dismissal.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) have recently held an employee to hold ‘an implied right not to be dismissed’ when on long-term sick leave.
Naturally, this has caused many employees great concern
because long-term sickness absence, in itself, is usually fair reason to
consider dismissal. Whilst there can be
various factors at play, including any potential disability of the employee,
the principle of an individual having to be present at work to fulfil their job
role (and employment) remains.
So what happened in the recent case of ICTS (UK) Limited v Mr A Visram to cause such concern?
Well, let’s set the scene briefly, Mr Visram was
contractually entitled to sickness benefit payments (termed ‘Long Term
Disability Benefits’) during any period of continuous sickness absence from
employment whilst he remained an employee.
But, for various reasons, the insurer and employer didn’t wish to pay
them and, in doing so, Mr Visram was dismissed on grounds of sickness absence
and so ended his entitlement to contractual Long Term Disability Benefits payments
by the insurer (as the policy required his continued employment).