The Law in 4: Employment and Immigration news (12/01/24)

Lloyds Bank worker compensated for inappropriate language during D&I training

Carl Borg-Neal was awarded almost half a million pounds for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. This case was widely reported in the news and is undoubtedly a truly difficult topic. The reason for his dismissal was that he used a racially inappropriate word during D&I training which although used in a fair question to the trainer, he says was a mistake. The trainer was understandably distressed by the use of the word and this led to an investigation.

With all employment tribunal decisions being reported online, we read the 46-page decision which recorded that there were “unusual and particular circumstances” when finding that no reasonable employer would have dismissed Mr Borg-Neal. Among the key points here was the fact that this took place during race education training and it was found that Mr Borg-Neal did not use it as a term of abuse towards anyone. In fact, the manager who made the decision to dismiss accepted that Mr Borg-Neal’s question had been a good one. However, undoubtedly the Bank felt that by not dismissing Mr Borg-Neal, it was somehow condoning the use of such language.

This was such a tricky case, compounded by Mr Borg-Neal’s disability (dyslexia) which was found to be materially relevant, and which led ultimately to the level of compensation awarded. Compensation included £15,000 for injury to feelings, aggravated damages of £3,000 and personal injury of £23,000. The bulk of the award was related to loss of earnings and benefits.

Also applied was a small uplift of 5% for delays in the investigation process which is a point worth noting.


Police officer wins large pay out for discrimination

Another large compensation payment was awarded to DI Rebecca Kalam as a result of horrendous sexual harassment and discrimination during her employment with the West Midlands Police. The press reports examples where she was forced to strip to her underwear during a first aid training exercise and other comments about her being a woman when doing exercises.

With most discrimination claims, these large awards are made up mainly as compensation for future loss of earnings, which, depending on the role of the employee and the industry in which they work, can be sizeable if they are no longer able to work in that industry. Let’s also not forget the impact of the discrimination suffered on their fitness to work generally.


2024: will there be an even greater push to get back to the office?

Yes, according to many press reports. We have already seen that, while hybrid working has been embraced by many companies where their staff can work from home and that has helped companies to save a lot on office costs, there has been an increase in frustration that remote working is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Issues around collaboration, productivity, development and the positive effect on mental health are all being talked about as being the upside to office working. There have also been reports of employees who work remotely feeling like they may be overlooked for promotion and development opportunities and that will often lead down the road to discrimination claims.

So watch this space and let’s see how 2024 unfolds.


2024: Embracing AI

It’s been over a year since Chat GPT broke onto the scene and like many of you, we have had a good play around with it. But what will AI bring us in the HR space in 2024? Recent reports have indicated that AI will be harnessed for the good in processes such as hiring, where it can help to eliminate human bias, restructuring to use AI for certain roles, and create budget for roles that cannot be replaced by AI. Those reports say that while AI is likely to mean some roles being replaced, companies and employees alike are more likely to find themselves in a situation where workers will co-exist with this emerging tech, with those willing to embrace it being able to benefit. Investing in AI tools is one action for companies; but employers should also invest in training their staff to work alongside it. Let’s not forget the human capital that in most cases will form the platform for success in the workplace.

On the flipside, we will also need to see how regulation keeps up with the increased use of AI with many companies calling for boundaries to be set for its use.