1 Mar 24

Labour to extend discrimination laws? If elected, the Labour party has pledged to introduce a new Race Equality Act which would, amongst other things, extend equal pay protections beyond sex and allow equal pay claims based on ethnicity and disability. Whilst this would open up the equal pay framework to a wider group of claimants and may lead to more pay disputes, employers should note that it does not necessarily represent a groundbreaking shift from the current position under UK law. Importantly, an employee is already able to bring an ordinary direct discrimination claim if they have been paid unfairly due to their race or disability. As part of its announcements, Labour has also reiterated its intention to introduce mandatory ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting for employers with over 250 employees.

Minimum Wage in the news…

The Department for Business and Trade has released a list of over 500 employers that have failed to pay the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Whilst few employers deliberately pay salaries or wages below the NMW, the complexities of the NMW regulations (particularly around working hours and deductions from pay) mean that businesses often find themselves inadvertently in breach. With several football clubs and other sporting organisations named in previous lists of NMW offenders, it is a timely reminder for employers in sport (and elsewhere) to ensure they monitor and update their pay practices for compliance with the NMW.

With that in mind, employers should take note of the new NMW rates coming into force from 1 April 2024 (available here), with the minimum hourly rate for workers over 21 increasing to £11.44.

Judge rules against employee’s work from home request

In one of the first cases to consider employees’ rights around remote working since the pandemic, an Employment Tribunal has found in favour of an employer who issued a policy to bring staff back to the office and rejected an employee’s flexible working request to permanently work from home (Wilson v Financial Conduct Authority).  Finding in the employer’s favour, the judge accepted that technology is “not well suited to the fast-paced interplay of exchanges which occur in, for example, planning meetings or training events when rapid discussion can occur on topics.” With more businesses reverting to more regular office working, we can expect more litigation in this area, but this will be a welcome judgment for employers looking to encourage staff back to the office.

Claim allowed to proceed, even where claimant wished to “weaponise” the proceedings

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has allowed an employee’s claim to continue, despite evidence that he sought to “weaponise” the proceedings and conducted his claim in a scandalous, unreasonable or vexatious manner (Hargreaves v Evolve Housing & Support and another). The EAT overturned the original Employment Tribunal’s conclusion that a “fair trial” was made impossible by the claimant’s conduct (which included sending abusive emails and threatening to damage the employer’s reputation in the media). Despite the claimant’s conduct, the EAT was not convinced that a fair trial was impossible, not least because there was no suggestion from the employer’s witnesses that they were intimidated by the claimant or were afraid to give evidence.  The key takeaway for employers is the high bar that tribunals continue to apply to strike-out applications and employers should not make them lightly.

New caps on Employment Tribunal awards from 6 April 2024

The Government has announced its annual increases to the compensation limits for Employment Tribunal awards and other statutory payments, with the headline increases being:

  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal claims has increased to £115,115 (up from £105,707).
  • The limit on a week’s pay (e.g. for calculating statutory redundancy payments) has increased to £700 (up from £643).
Alex Clarke

Senior Associate