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Education e-briefing 672: The 10 employment cases of 2016

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings

23-12-2016

As the year draws to a close we highlight 10 significant employment law cases from 2016:

Holiday pay

Lock v British Gas: The EAT and Court of Appeal ruled that EU law can be read across into UK domestic law to require employers to take into account commission payments when calculating pay for the basic four week holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations 1998. British Gas have applied for permission to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Read our briefing: Court of Appeal rules that results-based commission must be paid during holiday

Religious freedom and discrimination

Wasteney v East London NHS Foundation Trust: The EAT upheld a decision that there was no religious discrimination when an employee was disciplined after a complaint that she had tried to impose her religious views on a colleague. Although the claim failed, the case demonstrates the difficult balancing act employers face when an employee dislikes or is upset by what a colleague has said. The decision is being appealed.

Read our briefing: Talking about religion at work - when employees overstep the mark

Childcare vouchers during maternity leave

Peninsula Business Services Ltd v Donaldson: This EAT decision suggests that, during maternity leave, an employer can withhold childcare vouchers provided under a salary sacrifice scheme. Employers should be wary of relying on the case, however, as doing so could undermine the scheme itself and risks exposure to penalties for underpaying tax and/or national insurance.

Read our briefing: Salary sacrifice benefits during maternity leave

Discrimination based on immigration status

Onu v Akwiwu; Taiwo v Olaigbe: The Supreme Court ruled that treating someone less favourably because of their immigration status does not amount to direct race discrimination. The case is topical in light of Brexit and its consequences for the status of EEA citizens working in the UK.

Protected conversations

Faithorn Farrell Timms LLP v Bailey: This case confirmed that the rules on ‘protected conversations’ in unfair dismissal claims prevent parties referring to the fact that pre-termination discussions have taken place, and not just to the content of the negotiations

Rest breaks

Grange v Abellio London: The EAT ruled that workers can claim compensation if an employer’s working arrangements prevent them taking the rest breaks to which they are entitled under the Working Time Regulations, even if they have never asked to take a break. Such awards cannot, however, include any compensation for injured feelings, according to another EAT ruling.

Monitoring emails

Barbulescu v Romania: In this case the European Court of Human Rights said there was no breach of an employee’s right to respect for their private life when he was dismissed after email monitoring revealed he had sent personal emails from a work account, contrary to a clear company policy. The case is due to be reconsidered by the court’s grand chamber.

Pulling a sickie

Metroline West v Ajaj: This EAT case makes it clear that it is gross misconduct for an employee to falsely claim that they are too sick to work. To avoid an unfair dismissal finding, however, an employer must follow a fair disciplinary procedure and have reasonable grounds to believe that the employee has been dishonest.

Treatment of employee on sick leave

Private Medicine Intermediaries v Hodkinson: In this case an employer wrote to an employee who was on sick leave for work-related stress, to raise concerns that were not serious or urgent. The EAT upheld a tribunal’s decision that the employer had constructively dismissed the employee by writing to her in this way.

Discrimination compensation

Moorthy v HMRC: The Upper Tribunal (tax chamber) ruled that compensation for injured feelings connected with a discriminatory dismissal is subject to the same tax rules as other termination payments (ie taxable subject to the £30,000 threshold). The tribunal said conflicting EAT rulings were wrongly decided, meaning claimants could seek higher awards to take account of the tax liability.