Employment Tribunal Harassment Claims

Abuse in the workplace can be an awful experience for anyone involved. Bullying and/or harassment in the workplace is something that no-one should have to experience. According to ACAS workplace abuse can include:

• Intentionally undermining a proficient worker by constant criticism

• Exclusion or victimisation

• Overbearing supervision or other misuse of power

• Preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities

• Ridiculing someone

• Spreading malicious rumours, or insulting someone by word or behavior (particularly on the grounds of age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation or religious beliefs)

• Unfair treatment

• Unwelcome sexual advances – touching, standing too close, the display of offensive materials or asking for sexual favours

Written communications, emails and telephone conversations can also constitute workplace abuse, not just person to person.

It is the responsibility of your employer to prevent workplace abuse. Although if you are experiencing abuse in the workplace and nothing is being done to prevent it you should seek expert advice from specialist employment lawyers.

When it comes to bullying, the equality act does not define it as a “protected characteristic”and therefore you can’t make a direct claim to the Employment Tribunal based on any bullying you have suffered.

It is important to try and resolve any workplace abuse prior to leaving, because if you wish to make a claim following your resignation, the court would expect to see proof you were seeking help. Keeping records of any abuse at work will help your claim. Ensure that you consider all avenues prior to resigning. However if you have resigned and it’s down to the bullying or harassment you suffered at work, you may be able to make a constructive dismissal claim to the employment tribunal. Dependent on the abuse you suffered, you may also be able to make a claim for discrimination.

If you are experiencing abuse in the work placeand you are thinking of making a bullying and harassment claim, ensure you seek expert legal advice before making any rash decisions. Our specialist employment tribunal lawyers can help with advice and information. Get in touch with us today on advice@employmenttribunalclaim.co.uk


2011-2012 Employment Tribunal Statistics – more details

Following the earlier publication in June of the 2011-12 statistics for the employment tribunal, the Tribunal service have today issued some more detailed statistics for the same period.

Perhaps the headline stat from the latest figures is the remarkably high award made in one particular race discrimination claim – a staggering £4,445,023! There were also high maximum awards made for disability discrimination [£390,871] and age discrimination claims [£144,100]. However, it’s worth noting that these maximum figures are well out of the normal range of awards made by employment tribunals – in contrast the average award for disability discrimination was £22,183, whilst age discrimination saw an average award made of £19,327.

The highest level of awards for unfair dismissal compensation was £173,408 which is of course much more than the normal statutory cap for such claims of £72,300. However that cap on unfair dismissal awards can be exceeded in some cases of health and safety or whistleblowing.

It’s also worth noting again that this year saw a reduction of 15% in the overall level of claims made – 2011-12 saw 186,300 employment tribunal claims made, down from 218,100 claims in 2010 – 11.

Thinking of making an employment tribunal claim? Call our specialist Employment Tribunal Lawyers on 0800 1404544, wherever you live or work in England and Wales.


How to find the best employment law advice online

When searching ‘employment law’ on Google, among the first pages alone you will find solicitors, employment law specialists, lawyers, information sites, charities, claims companies, employee bodies, employer bodies and a whole host of directories. Although the web is a useful resource, with 48 million search results, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. There are a number of things you can do to get the best out of your search:

• Be explicit about who you are contacting and what level of protection you will have if you are not happy with the service they offer. Many of the websites you will come across on the internet will not be solicitors, but employment law advisers. They are not regulated in the same way as solicitors, are not bound by the same professional rules of conduct, may not have any qualifications or have to engage in any compulsory regular education and probably won’t carry anywhere near the same level of professional indemnity insurance as solicitors.

• Employment law is a highly specialist area of law. Therefore if you are looking for professional advice regarding employment law or someone to represent you in the Employment Tribunal, look for genuine specialists in this field. So check out the website and see whether they specialize in employment law.

• Be clear on what you are looking for. If you are specifically looking for information, try the websites of reputable solicitors or reliable public information sources. Start with the government website www.direct.gov.uk  or ACAS www.acas.org.uk. You can be sure that the information on these sites is correct and kept fully up to date.

• Do not restrict your internet search to your immediate geographic area. A lot of employment law matters can be dealt with remotely on the telephone or by email and going a little further afield could provide you with someone more specialist and knowledgeable than the firms in your local area.


Annual Tribunal Statistics show dip in claims

The annual Tribunal Statistics for the year 2011–12 have now been published. With regard to the Employment Tribunal [ ET], there seems to be a general downward trend. For example 186,300 new claims were received by the ET, which compared to the previous 12 month period showed a fall of 15%. However there were significant differences between the reduction of the number of single and multiple claims made – whilst just 2% less single claims were made, there were 19% less multiple ET claims received.

The number of actual disposals of cases by the ET also dropped during 2011 -12. N30,000 cases were finally disposed of, 10% less than the previous year. However, the ET seems to be successfully continuing their attempts to slowly tackle the claims backlog – the number of single claims remaining unresolved by the ET dropped by 7%, a continuation of the trend which began back in 2009.

Of the number of employment tribunal claims actually received, 31% were for unfair dismissal, redundancy or breach of contract, with a further 16% accounted for by deductions in wages claims.

Interestingly, of 230,000 individual complaints that were disposed of during the year, just 12% were successful at the tribunal hearing – far fewer than the 27% of withdrawn and 33% that resulted in a successful ACAS conciliation – though of course it remains to be seen whether these claims were withdrawn as the result of the settlement, and with the ACAS conciliating claims were successfully resolved in favour of the claimant or not.

It’s not 1975 – gay couples do now have rights!

I have to make an admission here – I reached the grand old age of 50 this year – so I very much grew up in the 70s. I have, as a result of a happy childhood, got a soft spot for the 1970s, despite his reputation as the decade that taste forgot. I’m a huge Bowie and Roxy Music fan [to those of you under 40 – they were the really cool artists in the 70s]. However, I am amazed when other people to need to behave as if it is still 1975.

The latest example came in the legal case of Bull and Another v Hall and Another – which made it all the way to the Court of Appeal.

The case concerned a gay couple who had been refused a room in a hotel on the basis that they were unmarried – though they have already booked the room. The Court of Appeal, in its wisdom, concluded that there had been clear discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. In effect, by insisting that only a married couple could share a room, the hotel were effectively discriminating against gay couples – who, in the absence of gay marriage, could never satisfy this hotel’s particular requirement.

It’s worth noting that under the new Equality Act, it is not considered discrimination for any employer [or hotel for that matter] to allow access to services, facilities and benefits – if such availability is restricted to both civil partners and married couples.

Law Society slams Employment Tribunal fees

In a press release earlier this week from the Law Society, the organisation representing solicitors throughout England and Wales, John Wotton, president of the Law Society, has strongly criticised the government’s proposals for the introduction of fees for issuing an Employment Tribunal claim or an appeal to the employment appeal tribunal. Mr Wotton described the move is as potentially denying access to justice to those who have recently been sacked who, he claims, would as a result no longer have an effective right to have their case heard at an Employment Tribunal. He continued that “access to justice in employment matters will be confined to those with the means to afford these fees”.

His comments add to those already by a number of industry experts and come the day after the House of Lords rejected six separate parts of the proposed Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – giving the government a bloody nose on a range of issues including permitting legal aid to remain available for medical reports in medical negligence claim cases. These defeats come hard on the heels of the government’s own concessions in the bill with regard to medical negligence for those children with severe injuries, those victims of domestic violence and domestic child abduction.

Pregnancy Discrimination: the most common causes

For female employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave, protection both from unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination due to pregnancy-related absence exists from day one of employment, regardless of the length of the absence.

Often discrimination occurs when a pregnant female employee is dismissed when they have less than one year’s service. Unfortunately for their employers, pregnancy dismissals are an exception to the rule that you have to have been employed for at least 12 months before you bring an unfair dismissal claim, and female employees also have special protection if made redundant whilst on maternity leave. Employers must offer them any suitable available position and first refusal and they do not need to attend an interview. Failure to comply means that the pregnancy or maternity discrimination dismissal is automatically unfair and may also be deemed sex discrimination, which is not subject to any cap on compensation made following an employment tribunal claim.

Despite this, female employees are commonly dismissed under the following circumstances:

• On return from maternity leave their position simply ‘vanishes’ because it has offered to somebody else in a restructure they were not made aware of

• A genuine restructure results in redundancies but the employer is not aware of the right of a female employee on maternity leave to be offered suitable alternative employment before anybody else is offered the role

• Sickness is used as a weighting criteria during a redundancy programme despite employers being obliged to ignore pregnancy-related sickness in the redundancy selection process

• They are treated less favourably for a reason related to her pregnancy, e.g. absence or maternity leave

• They are selected for redundancy without good reason because they are working part-time or flexibly

To dismiss, make redundant or otherwise treat a female employee in this situation less favourably in relation to a pay rise, promotion or training, is classed as discrimination and the consequence for an employer of failure to comply is a discrimination claim for unlimited employment tribunal compensation, either for injury to feelings or for future loss of earnings and benefits.

If you believe that you have been unfairly dismissed or treated unfairly because of your pregnancy and you’re thinking of making a claim for unfair dismissal compensation or pregnancy discrimination, get in touch with our team of employment solicitors today for specialist employment law advice.


What is classed as Unfair Redundancy?

Redundancy is always classed as unfair if the employer failed to follow proper redundancy procedure, the reasons behind which vary enormously but include:

• If others in the organisation do the same job as you but are not made redundant (collective redundancies are more typical than individual so an employee should check that there are fair reasons for this)

• If a person is made redundant rather than their position, as is correct; in genuine redundancies the employer no longer requires the relevant job functions to be performed

• If an employee asserts their statutory rights, e.g. requesting a written statement of responsibilities from their employer

• If more than 20 people are made redundant simultaneously but the employer has failed to engage in collective consultation

• If somebody else is recruited to fill your position after you have been terminated from it

• Less favourable treatment of part-time workers and fixed-term employees

• Personal dislike or prejudice based on sex, race, religious or age discrimination

• Pregnancy discrimination

• Unhappiness with job performance without following the correct procedures prior to dismissal, such as warnings about performance

• Where the criteria for redundancy are not objectively-based or clearly explained, i.e. if the employer still requires a particular job to be done but not to the same extent as previously, resulting in the need for some of those carrying out the job to be made redundant

If you believe that you have been the victim of unfair redundancy and you’re thinking of making an employment tribunal claim  for redundancy compensation call our team of specialist employment solicitors today for expert advice.


An Employer’s responsibilities regarding Workplace Discrimination

Potentially lawful and fair grounds for the dismissal of an employee include conduct, capability and redundancy. However, an employee cannot be dismissed on lawful grounds alone and disciplinary procedures and stages exist to ensure that fair and reasonable decisions are made in the circumstances.

Qualifying criteria, such as the length of an employee’s service and the right not to be unfairly dismissed, must be factored in when considering dismissal. Some categories of worker other than employees are also entitled to other rights, such as paid leave and regulations preventing the less favourable treatment of part-time workers and fixed-term employees also exist.

Unlawful grounds for the dismissal of an employee are age, disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, and religion or belief, defined as protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 Employee dismissal via any of these means is classed as discrimination.

Although workplace discrimination and employment discrimination are not always intentional, motive is irrelevant in all employment discrimination at work cases. For example, a manager will be deemed as discriminating an employee for counting time off due to pregnancy-related illness as absenteeism and, as a result the employee could file a complaint of sex or pregnancy discrimination.

Employees are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and any employer deemed to be acting unreasonably, i.e. to act in such a way that destroys the mutual bond of trust and confidence with their employee, risks being subject to a bullying and harassment claim and complaints of constructive dismissal.

Even if an employer has policies to tackle workplace discrimination, harassment, victimisation and bullying, if they are not implemented it is impossible to prove that they have taken all reasonable steps to avoid employment discrimination. Therefore all employers should ensure that applicable parties should be fully trained in the complexities of workplace discrimination laws. An up-to-date Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy should be produced so that an employer does not make themselves vulnerable to a claim made to an Employment Tribunal and it is recommended that they consult the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Code of Practice when writing this Policy.

An employer can protect goodwill and staff, their two most valuable assets, by agreeing restrictive covenants, however the Courts scrutinise these closely so the employer should apply due care and attention when drafting any covenants to ensure that they are reasonable.

Whether or not you are an employee who thinks that they might have grounds for an employment tribunal claim, or if you are an employer defending a claim for employment tribunal compensation [or wanting legal advice or assistance on employment law matters in general], one of contact our specialist employment solicitors – initial phone advice is absolutely free – and we also run appropriate cases on no win no fee employment tribunal agreements.


Gender pay gap narrows for first time in 38 years

Recently released figures by the Chartered Management Institute in their 2011 Salary Survey revealed that female executives are earning as much as their male colleagues for the first time since their records began 38 years ago, however this is only £602 at junior executive level based on an average salary of £21,969. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the gender pay gap has fallen below 10% for the first time ever after women’s earnings increased at a faster rate than men’s over the year. Despite calls for equality the 2011 National Management Salary Survey has revealed that men continue to be paid more on average than women for doing the same jobs (£42,441 compared to £31,895).

Some interesting statistics:

• There is still considerable disparity in pay between the public and the private sectors. The gender pay divide for full-timers fell from 9.9% to 9.2% in the public sector whilst in the private sector the gap narrowed from 19.7% to 18.4%

• If salaries continue to increase at current rates (2.1% for men and 2.4% for women) the average salary for female executives will not match that of their male colleagues until 2091

• The gap between earnings of men and women of all ages fell from 10.1% in April 2010 to 9.1% in April 2011

• Women’s wages rose by 1.9% over the year to April 9 compared with a rise of 0.8% for men

• According to the ONS the average gender pay gap for full-time workers in was 17% in 1997

• Public Sector wages grew by 0.3% to £556 a week whilst Private Sector earnings rose by 0.8% to £476

With the high rate of inflation and stagnant wages, the average worker is 3.5% worse off than they were this time last year, however wage-led growth is the only way to secure a sustainable economic recovery. As a result, the Chartered Management Institute is calling for the Government to scrutinise organisational pay, demand more transparency from companies on pay bandings and publicly expose organisations found guilty of fuelling the gender pay gap.

If you think that you are being paid less than those doing similar work for your employers, with the only apparent difference between you being your sex, you may have grounds for an employment tribunal claim for sex discrimination. For free initial phone legal advice about employment tribunal compensation, contact our specialist employment lawyers today on 01722 4223300. Remember, we run appropriate compensation claims under no win no fee employment tribunal agreements.