the latest briefs.....

Check here for the very latest news on all employment issues…

Latest Brief - Week Ending 21 October 2016

Equal pay for Asda staff

An employment judge has held at a preliminary hearing that a predominantly female group of supermarket retail store employees can compare themselves with a predominantly male group of distribution depot employees, who receive higher pay, for the purposes of an equal pay claim.  The judge held that the comparison was permitted under both EU and domestic law.  The Equal Pay Act implements the principle that men and women should receive 'equal pay for equal work.'  'Equal work' is defined as like work, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value.  The tribunal has yet to consider whether the jobs are of equal value in respect of their demands, and this decision will need to be made by a judge at a full hearing.  If the claims are successful at full hearing, it could mean workers recovering more than £100m in back pay, going back to 2002, and pay rises in the future.  Supermarkets and similar employees will no doubt be watching this case closely going forward!  

Staff offered higher wages to remain healthy during the Christmas period

Argos has offered agency workers in one of its warehouses an additional 80p per hour if they are able to work without taking any time off sick over the Christmas season.  Agency workers have been informed that they will not be entitled to the premium for any week in which they call in sick, or otherwise fail to attend work, over the Christmas period.  Argos has defended the policy by emphasising the importance of customer satisfaction over a busy and demanding period, but this policy could well be subject to legal challenge on the ground that it is indirectly discriminatory.  Employees who are disabled may suffer a disproportionate adverse impact as a result of this policy, as they are more likely to be forced to take time off sick.  In order to have any chance of justifying the policy, Argos will need to consider how to proceed on a case by case basis, to prevent any disadvantage to protected groups.

Latest Brief - Week Ending 7 October 2016

Dealing with strikes in schools

The Department for Education has published advice for employers, governing bodies and staff in maintained schools and academies.  The advice is non-statutory, and explains the law on trade disputes and picketing, as well as including advice on keeping schools open on strike days.  In the event of strike action at a school, the Department for Education expects the Headteacher to take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible.  It is a decision for the Headteacher whether a maintained school should be opened, partially opened, or closed.  In academies, this decision will generally rest with the academy trust.  The guidance states that it is best practice for Headteachers to consult with relevant stakeholders before making the decision whether or not to close the school.  The full advice can be found at: DfE: Handling strike action in schools: Guidance for school leaders, governing bodies and employers (20 September 2016)

1st October changes

1st October is one of the two key dates in the year when employment law changes tend to come into effect. There are no major changes coming into effect this 1st October, as the Gender Pay Gap Regulations (which were originally due to come into force on 1st October) have now been pushed back to April 2017.  

The main change coming into effect on 1st October will therefore be the annual increase to the national minimum wage rates.  These will be increased for £6.95 for workers aged 21-24, and to £5.55 for workers aged between 18 and 20.  The hourly rate for workers between 16 and 18 will increase to £4.00, and the apprentice rate will increase to 3.40.  The national living wage for workers aged over 25 will remain at £7.20 per hour.