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UK Discrimination Law Review: Equality law forecast

  • United Kingdom
  • Discrimination law - HR e-briefs


What to expect Impact
Govt to announce outcome of review of ET fees by end of year. A reduction cannot be ruled out given limited support for current levels from employer groups and SNP’s desire to abolish fees in Scotland (see below). A sizeable reduction in fees (or expansion of the remission scheme) will lead to an increase in claims, albeit not to previous levels.

Order expected setting out how control over Scottish Employment Tribunals will be devolved.

Lower fees in Scotland could encourage forum shopping by claimants. New rules will limit the risk but may not eliminate it for employers who operate on both sides of the border.
Employment status: in January the Court of Appeal will consider whether two interpreters who performed regular assignments for the court service were protected by the Equality Act 2010: Windle v Arada. The decision could give useful guidance on the issue of when non-employees have protection against discrimination.
The Govt is likely to introduce fines and a published list of ‘offenders’ for non-payment of ET awards. More significant than new financial penalties for employers is likely to be the proposed ‘naming and shaming’.
Larger employers (250+ staff) in the private and third sectors will need to report upon gender pay gaps. New legislation is expected by March 2016 but won’t take effect immediately. Employers should review their pay practices to ensure they can identify and explain pay gaps. Non-compliance risks fines and reputational damage.
New English language requirements for public sector employees in customer-facing roles likely to be introduced by  mid/late 2016. Employers will need to guard against discrimination when applying the language rules. Further details should emerge this Autumn.
A bakery in Northern Ireland is to appeal a decision that it discriminated against a customer when it refused, on religious grounds, to decorate a cake with a message supporting same sex marriage: Ashers Baking Co Ltd v Lee. Although the appeal court’s decision will not be binding in the rest of the UK, it will, nonetheless, be considered persuasive when courts are dealing with a similar clash of rights.
Thousands of female shop floor workers have brought equal pay claims against ASDA claiming same pay as male workers in distribution centres. The issue of whether the jobs involve work of equal value is likely to be heard next year. Sainsbury’s is facing similar claims. Other large supermarket chains are also at risk of claims.
News expected from EU next year on progress of Directive on women on boards and potential new family-friendly Directive. These are long-range issues but they could lead to more onerous obligations for UK employers.
The Equality Act is to be amended to cover caste discrimination, although no date has yet been fixed. Employers may need to amend policies in due course.
Supreme Court to hear appeal against decision that bus company did not discriminate against wheelchair user: Paulley v First Group Plc. The case will be watched closely in the transport sector for guidance on how to balance the competing interests of customers.


EAT Employment Appeal Tribunal
ET Employment Tribunal
ECJ Court of Justice of the European Union


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