The Law in 4: Employment and Immigration news (6/11/23)

Is HR trustworthy enough? Women afraid to speak out against sexual harassment and misogyny

Women working at city firms have said they do not trust human resources departments, highlighting a need for change with regard to how firms deal with complaints of sexual harassment and misogyny.

Not only does making a complaint require women to address their uncomfortable experiences, but women have reported the negative impact it has had on their working lives, with the firm often supporting whoever is in the more senior role. This has apparently led to a widespread distrust of human resources, revealing a worrying problem as harassment and misogyny is going unchecked. An example of this can be found in a recent independent review, where it was revealed that Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service has an ‘underlying culture of misogyny and sexism’.

Mark Freed, the chief executive of E2W and Men for Inclusion has commented on the issue, stating that men need to help make the change, as too many choose to turn ‘a blind eye’ to prevent any backlash from senior employees.

Of course it is tricky for HR – they are a representative of their employer and will often be put in a difficult position.  One of the commonly asked questions is:  how can HR drive change, and how to make their employers listen?


The Labour Party proposes to double the employment tribunal claim time limit

If you were on our webinar last time, you will have heard us talk about potential changes following a General Election.  One of the changes proposed by Labour would be to double the current 3 month time limit for an employee to bring a claim. On the upside, this would stop claimants feeling pressured to rush into litigation. For some, it would allow them more time to process potentially traumatic experiences.  Perhaps this may also create more time to conciliate with resolution found another way, or avoiding claims being submitted entirely where there is more time to reach an agreement.

Although this may help access to justice, it’s fair to say that Labour would have to look at the current employment tribunal service which has long been underfunded and under-resourced.


‘A victory for underpaid workers’: Northern Ireland Police service owes workers up to £40 million for unfairly deducted wages

The Supreme Court has recently dismissed an appeal from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, following a decision made in 2018 by an employment tribunal that 3700 police staff had been underpaid holiday pay in the last 20 years. Consequently, the force is likely to have to pay out approximately £40 million.

While the laws are different in Northern Ireland from England and Wales (in terms of limitation on how back the claims can go) this is a stark lesson for employers to ensure that they are correctly calculating holiday pay, as well as other payments.

We thought the representative of the police staff made a really good point:  This was not compensation for the police, but simply paying them what they should have had in the first place.


Council’s deadnaming of trans woman leads to £25k award

A trans woman has been awarded £25,400 after she was deadnamed by her employer, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Deadnaming is the using of an individual’s birth name when they have changed it as part of their transition.

Despite being given eight months’ notice of her transition, the Council failed to update their records, nor did they support her in changing the name on her pension records, door pass or the staff directory. In fact, it took two years for things to be sorted.

The Tribunal found that her bosses showed a dismissive attitude, using ‘derogatory’ and ‘unprofessional’ language towards her. On one occasion she had found a Post-it note in her locker with her dead name crossed out, and her post-transtion name written on it for everyone to see.

The employment tribunal ruled that this amounted to less favourable treatment owing to a protected characteristic, so she was awarded £25,400 in compensation which included £21,000 as injury to feelings

A spokesperson for Kingston Council has commented that “[w]e are committed to doing the hard work necessary to create a workplace that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone including our trans and non-binary colleagues.” Let’s hope they stick to their word, and one of the first things that they should do is, as noted by the Tribunal, ensure that the Equality Act is reflected in their policies.