As Christmas approaches and another year draws to a close, we look back at some of the most notable cases of 2014.
1. Holiday pay has certainly dominated the headlines this year. In Lock v British Gas Trading Ltd the European Court held that where a worker's pay includes contractual commission this should be taken into account when calculating holiday pay. If not, the worker will be placed at a financial disadvantage as no commission will be generated during the holiday period and the worker might therefore be deterred from exercising the right to annual leave contrary to the purpose of the Working Time Directive.
2. The holiday pay theme was continued in Bear Scotland Ltd v Fulton and others, Hertel (UK) Ltd v Woods and others and AMEC Group Ltd v Law and others when the EAT decided that payment for non-guaranteed overtime should be taken into account when calculating holiday pay for the purposes of the four weeks' leave required by the European Directive.
3. The High Court in East England Schools CIC (trading as 4myschools) v Palmer and another considered non-solicitation and non-dealing restrictive covenants in the employment contract of a recruitment consultant and decided that these were enforceable. The employer had a legitimate interest to protect, despite the fact that recruitment information was widely available on social media.
4. In Robert Bates Wrekin Landscapes Ltd v Knight the EAT decided that an employer was not entitled to rely on a contractual termination provision to dismiss an employee without notice for breach of its customer's security requirements. Although the employee had breached those requirements, the EAT did not believe that the breach was deliberate and so serious as to justify summary dismissal.
5. The case of McMillan v Airedale NHS Foundation Trust involved an employee who appealed against the imposition of a written warning. During the appeal the employer considered increasing the severity of that sanction which would have led to the employee's dismissal. The Court of Appeal held that the contractual disciplinary procedure did not allow for a disciplinary penalty to be increased on appeal and prohibited the employer from doing so.
6. When it came to deciding whether covert recordings made by an employee of the public and private discussions of the panel at her grievance and disciplinary hearings could be admitted as evidence at a final hearing, the EAT held in Punjab National Bank (International) Ltd and others v Gosain that the recordings could be used as they were not part of the panel's deliberations on the matters under consideration.
7. The Court of Appeal in Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence held that an employer had no duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for a non-disabled employee whose daughter has Down's syndrome since the duty only applies where an employee or job applicant is disabled and does not oblige employers to make adjustments for a non-disabled employee who is in some way associated with a disabled person.
8. The Advocate General gave his opinion in FOA, acting on behalf of Karsten Kaltoft v Kommunernes Landsforening, acting on behalf of the Municipality of Billund on the extent to which EU discrimination law protects obese workers from discrimination. He found that while there is no general principle prohibiting discrimination on grounds of obesity, severe or morbid obesity might fall within the definition of 'disability' under the Equal Treatment Framework Directive if it hinders a worker from full and effective participation in their professional life on an equal basis with other workers.
9. In Shuter v Ford Motor Company Ltd an employment tribunal rejected a male employee's claim that his employer's failure to pay enhanced additional paternity pay amounted to sex discrimination since a female employee applying for additional paternity leave would have been treated no differently. Further the tribunal found that the employer's policy or practice of paying women full basic pay when on maternity leave was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of recruiting and retaining women in a male-dominated workforce.
10. In one of the few reported cases dealing with the right to time off for dependants, the EAT in Ellis v Ratcliff Palfinger Ltd upheld a decision that an employee was not automatically unfairly dismissed for exercising the right to take time off for dependants. The employee had failed to tell his employer the reason for his absence as soon as it was reasonably practicable to do so. His dismissal was therefore because of his failure to follow the reporting procedure and he was already on a final written warning for attendance issues.
11. The last two cases highlight the importance of adequate redundancy procedures. In Dominique v Toll Global Forwarding Ltd the EAT held that an employer failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments when it did not adjust certain redundancy criteria despite the fact that this would have made no difference to the eventual decision to dismiss the employee. The receipt of lower scores was itself a disadvantage to which the reasonable adjustments should have been addressed.
12. Similarly in London Borough of Southwark v Charles the EAT upheld a decision that an employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee in a redundancy exercise. The employee's disability meant that he was unable to attend administrative meetings, which the tribunal held included interviews. The employer's insistence that the employee attend an interview for an alternative role meant they failed to consider alternative ways of assessing his suitability for roles into which he might have been redeployed as an alternative to redundancy.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.