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UK HR Two Minute Monthly: September

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: September

September 20, 2021

Authored by: Natalie Fuller

Legal professional privilege, litigation advice privilege, iniquitous principle, unfair dismissal, right to appeal, unlawful protection from wages claim, income protection payments

EAT concludes that an email sent prior to a disciplinary hearing, indicating the employer’s intention to dismiss an employee in any circumstances, did not fall within the “iniquity” exception to litigation privilege.

Confidential communications between a party to an employment tribunal and its legal advisers are protected pursuant to the doctrine of legal professional privilege. However, the “iniquity principle” means that legal professional privilege will be lost where a document or communication is created for the purpose of furthering criminal or fraudulent activity.

In Abbeyfield (Maidenhead) Society v Hart Mr Hart was dismissed for gross misconduct. He subsequently submitted a Data Subject Access Request (“DSAR”) and presented several claims at the employment tribunal, including a wrongful and unfair dismissal claim. During the tribunal proceedings Abbeyfield identified a number of communications between Abbeyfield and third party HR consultants which it said were inadmissible by reason of litigation privilege. The tribunal agreed with Abbeyfield’s position, save in respect of one communication from the appeal officer which stated that Mr Hart would not be returning in any circumstances. In light of the view expressed

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: COVID-19 automatically unfair dismissal; objective justification to discrimination arising from disability; constructive dismissal as discriminatory act of harassment

COVID-19- automatic unfair dismissal for employee who remained in Italy during outbreak

A Tribunal has found, in the case of Montanaro v Lansafe Limited, that an employee who had travelled from the UK to Italy for the purposes of holiday and stayed in Italy during the Italian national lockdown in March 2020, was automatically unfairly dismissed.

Under section 100(e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, an employee will be automatically unfairly dismissed if the principal reason for the dismissal is that the employee, in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.

The claimant travelled to Italy for the purpose of his sister’s wedding, but found himself subject to the Italian national lockdown and a requirement to self-isolate for 14 days if he should return to the UK. Upon notifying the respondent of the circumstances, the respondent told the claimant to wait for instructions but subsequently sent a letter to the claimant in London purporting to terminate his employment for failing to follow company instructions and taking leave without permission. This was followed by his final payslip and P45

Returning to the office: Key questions and answers for UK employers

As 21 June 2021 gets nearer, how are you going to manage the return to the office? Adam Lambert, Mark Kaye and Lydia Moore answer the key questions being asked by office-based businesses in the first in a series of regular updates on the topic.

  1. Can an employer force its employees to return to the office? Despite the easing of the lockdown in the UK, the government guidance is to still work from home where possible. However, the potential further easing of restrictions on 21 June 2021 will mean that employers will have the option to consider whether it may be appropriate to ask their employees to come back to the office. Employers will need to act with caution and treat each employee on a case-by-case basis. Although the contract of employment will almost certainly require the employee to work at the company’s offices, the impact of COVID-19 should not be disregarded. If an employee is reluctant to return to the office, they should be consulted first so that steps can be taken to allay their fears and other options can be explored. If an employee has a disability, there will be an additional requirement for the employer to

Coronavirus: UK Job Support Scheme – key details for employers

As we reported previously, on 12 May 2020 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) would be extended until 31 October 2020.  With just over 5 weeks until the CJRS ends, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, made an announcement setting out the government’s package of measures designed to protect UK jobs through the winter.

Job Support Scheme

With effect from 1 November 2020, the new Job Support Scheme (“JSS”) will come into force.  The key details of the JSS are as follows:

  • It is designed to support the wages of employees who are in viable jobs, but on shorter working hours.
  • Employees must work at least 1/3 of their normal working hours and be paid by their employer for those hours.
  • For the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of an employee’s salary.
  • The level of grant will be calculated based on an employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.
  • All small and medium enterprises are eligible to participate in the JSS.
  • Larger businesses, whose turnover has fallen as a result of coronavirus, are also eligible to participate in the JSS, subject

UK HR Solutions: Sickness Absence FAQs

Welcome to the next post in our weekly series of hands-on guidance for UK HR professionals. In this series we look at common HR issues that you’ll encounter in the workplace and give you practical guidance on how to deal with them. Over the course of the series we’re covering a variety of topics, such as how to handle grievances, disciplinaries, suspension, performance management and much more besides.

This week we continue our look at managing sickness absence with a set of FAQs that UK employers commonly ask.

Click here to read our sickness absence FAQs.

This article was co-written with Trainee Solicitor Peter Summerfield.

Want to Protect Your Trade Secrets? Update Your Employment Agreements!

October 11, 2019

Categories

Since 2016, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) has provided employers with a federal cause of action against employees, former employees and other bad actors who misappropriate trade secrets.  In addition to injunctive relief, DTSA remedies include civil seizure, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney fees.  However, in order to preserve the right to seek punitive damages and attorney fees from an employee or former employee, the employer must have provided notice of the whistleblower-protection provisions of the Act.  Those provisions protect employees and former employees from criminal or civil liability for disclosure of trade secrets made (a) in confidence to a government official or an attorney for the purpose of reporting or investigating a suspected violation of law, or (b) under seal in a judicial proceeding.

Notice of the whistle-blower protection provisions must be included “in any contract or agreement with an employee that governs the use of a trade secret or other confidential information.”  This would commonly include, for example, employment agreements, confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements, noncompetition agreements, and separation agreements.  The notice requirement applies to all such contracts entered into or revised after May 11, 2016.

The notice may be provided by including the whistleblower-protection provision in

Preparation and Training Critical as Illinois Employers Face New Legal Landscape

Illinois employers must begin preparing now for the host of new legal requirements impacting the workplace beginning in 2020.  With legal changes on topics ranging from hiring practices and pay equity to drug testing and severance agreements, employers should not only review and revise their policies, practices and expectations, but also ensure that their Human Resources and management personnel receive training to ensure compliance.

Amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”)

Under new amendments to the IHRA, more employers are now subject to the IHRA, more protections are now provided to employees (and others), sexual harassment training is now a requirement, and employers now have reporting obligations to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) regarding adverse judgments, administrative rulings, and settlements.  Specifically:

  • Beginning July 1, 2020, rather than applying only to employers with 15 or more employees, the IHRA applies to all employers with one or more employees in Illinois during 20 or more calendar weeks. Newly covered employers should ensure that HR personnel and managers are aware of the areas in which the IHRA is broader than federal anti-discrimination laws, including but not limited to: (1) pregnancy accommodation requirements; (2) prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender

Recharacterization of the Relationship Between a Delivery Driver and a Digital Platform as an Employment Agreement

In a judgment dated 28 November 2018, the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) ruled for the first time on the characterization of the agreement between a delivery driver and a digital platform. The French Supreme Court granted the status of employee to a former delivery driver of Take Eat Easy.

The French Court of Appeal had rejected the employee status because, among other things, the driver remained free each week to determine the time slots during which he wished to work. The French Supreme Court considered, basing itself on objective elements, that the “geo-tracking system which enabled the company to monitor in real time the position of the driver and the number of kilometers covered by him” allowed the company to sanction the driver (via a bonus and malus system). It therefore ruled that the existence of a power of direction and control over how the driver provided his services created a relationship of subordination, and annulled the judgment of the French Court of Appeal.

For several years now, litigation related to digital platforms such as Uber has emerged both in France and abroad; the decisions rendered by the courts however differ.

In France, several Uber drivers filed proceedings

States Continue to Revise Non-Compete Laws

Following the “Call to Action”[1] that was issued by the White House and the U.S. Department of Treasury in October, 2016 concerning what the Obama Administration perceived as overuse of non-compete agreements, a number of states have revised their laws regarding non-competes.

In 2016, prior to the “Call to Action,” Idaho passed a law that established a presumption that an employee’s breach of a non-compete agreement caused irreparable harm to the employer.  However, the legislature reconsidered that move.  In July of this year, the Idaho legislature repealed the presumption, placing the burden back on the employer to prove that it suffered harm to a legitimate business interest.

In 2016, Utah imposed numerous requirements and restrictions on non-compete agreements.  Rather than the previous common law requirement that the agreement only restrict a former employee for a reasonable time, the new law voids any agreement that restricts a former employee for longer than one year.  Now, two years later, Utah continues to reassess its non-compete law.  Earlier this year, the state enacted a law prohibiting non-competes for employees working in the broadcasting field and making less than $913 per week or $47,476 per year, aside from a few exceptions.

Massachusetts

New developments on time restricted employment contracts – more “red tape” and further restrictions

The “Große Koalition” (the Grand Coalition) recently concluded a variety of legislative projects which will result in additional headaches, administrative hurdles, thresholds and new deadlines for HR professionals and employment experts. Traditionally, labor and employment laws in Germany have tended to be employee friendly. Now it appears that the few remaining employer-friendly laws enacted in the early 1980s to improve overall employment in Germany will also be reversed.

One area subject to challenge is time restricted employment. Until now, German employers could use time restricted employment even without substantive reasons for up to two years. This concept, known by the somewhat technical German term “sachgrundlose Befristung”, became extremely popular due to wide coverage which extended outside the legal press.

Federal Constitutional Court narrows use of time restricted employment contract

In June 2018, the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany (“Bundesverfassungsgericht”) overruled a 2011 judgment of the Federal Labor Court (“Bundesarbeitsgericht”). The Federal Labor Court had ruled that the employer could conclude unfounded time restricted employment contracts provided the employee had not been previously employed by the employer within a three year period. This ruling went beyond the law itself which does not provide for a concrete threshold period but rather prohibits

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