Tesco Equal Pay Claim

Tesco Equal Pay Claim

It has been reported that Law firm, Leigh Day, has begun the ACAS Early Conciliation process against Tesco on behalf of almost 100 female shop assistants claiming equal pay. The commencement of the ACAS Early Conciliation process is required before potential claimants submit claims in the Employment Tribunal in the vast majority of cases and the start of the process is often the first indication to an employer that employees/ex-employees intend to submit a Tribunal claim against it.  

It has been reported that Tesco is facing a demand for up to £4 billion in back pay from thousands of employees and that this could be the UK’s largest ever equal pay claim. The claim concerns shop workers who say that they earn as much as £3 per hour less than male warehouse workers in similar roles.  

Supermarket giants Asda and Sainsbury’s are also facing similar equal pay actions with ongoing claims against both organisations currently in the Tribunal system.


New sentencing guideline for domestic abuse in effect from May 2018

New sentencing guideline for domestic abuse in effect from May 2018

A new definitive guideline has been published by the Sentencing Council identifying the principles to be taken into account in the sentencing of domestic abuse offences. According to the guideline, such offences should be considered more serious than similar offences that take place outside the home due to the ‘violation of trust and security which normally exist between people in an intimate or family relationship’. The new guideline will be in use from 24 May 2018.

Three key points come out of the guideline:

  • Provocation will not be considered a mitigating factor in sentencing, except in rare circumstances;
  • The penalty for domestic abuse should be determined by the seriousness of the crime, not by the wishes of the victim;
  • Courts should take great care when the offender or victim requests a lesser sentence in the interests of any children, as the sentence should primarily be determined by the seriousness of the offence.

The guideline also explicitly refers to domestic abuse through methods other than direct contact, such as threats made through telephone, email, text, tracking devices and social media.


Dealing with pre-contract enquiries raised by the buyer – is “Not known” good enough?

Dealing with pre-contract enquiries raised by the buyer – is “Not known” good enough?

While there is no requirement for a seller/landlord of property in England and Wales to provide replies to pre-contract enquires raised by the buyer/tenant (with limited exceptions), failure to do so will most likely mean the deal falls through. As a result, a seller/landlord will more often than not provide replies to enquiries raised by the buyer.

In transactions involving commercial property, sellers/landlords often provide replies to enquiries in the form of replies to CPSE forms, which are the industry standard form of pre-contract enquiries.

It is common practice for a seller/landlord to provide CPSE forms with quite a number of responses to questions being “not so far as we are aware”, “not known” or words to similar effect. However, a seller/landlord should tread with caution if it wants to provide such replies to express enquiries raised by the buyer/tenant or in response to any question in the CPSE forms it intends to provide to the buyer/tenant.

There is established case law which essentially means that where a person provides a reply to an enquiry to another party as part of a transaction without undertaking reasonable investigations to establish the veracity of the reply, he/she could be held liable for misrepresentation if he/she provided incorrect or misleading information, whether or not such information was known to be inaccurate or incorrect by him/her.

The investigations a seller/landlord could be reasonably expected to make before providing a reply to an enquiry includes (but is not limited to) asking questions of, all its relevant employees such as property managers or those who may have information relating to the subject property (where the seller/landlord is a company or corporation) and reviewing all relevant files, documents and records relating to the property in the possession of the seller/landlord. There is an obligation on the seller/landlord to carry out all investigations that are reasonable to ensure that the replies provided are true and accurate.

Undertaking such investigation may be difficult or impractical in most circumstances for a myriad of reasons. For instance:

  • the property in question may have been owned by seller/landlord for a lengthy period;
  • the property may form part of a number of properties within his/her portfolio;
  • files, documents and records relating to the property may have been lost or destroyed; or
  • employees or people who may have had knowledge of the property may no longer be with the company.

As such, if a seller/landlord feels he/she may not have all the necessary information required to provide an informed reply to any pre-contract enquiry, it would be wise not to provide a generic response such as “not so far as we are aware”, “not known” or words to similar effect without proper qualification in order to limit the risk of being held to have misrepresented a fact.

Simply stating “not so far as we are aware”, “not known” or words to similar effect will not absolve a seller/landlord of any liability if he/she has failed to take reasonable steps to enable him/her to provide an accurate response. A seller/landlord also has an obligation to disclose to the buyer/tenant prior to exchange of contracts or conclusion of the transaction (where there is no prior contract), without delay, any happenings or occurrence which may change the position of any replies to enquiries he/she has provided.

New Compensation Limits from 6 April 2018

New Compensation Limits from 6 April 2018

Increases to compensation limits and minimum payments relating to employment matters have just been announced. The increases will take effect from 6 April 2018 and where the “appropriate date” for the particular claim, for example, the dismissal for unfair dismissal purposes, occurs on or after this date.

In accordance with the new provisions, the limit on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal will be increased from £80,541 to £83,682. The statutory limit on a week’s pay will be increased from £489 to £508.  Guarantee payments will increase from £27 to £28 per day.

Time’s Up for Inequality

Time’s Up for Inequality

Following publication in the Observer of an open letter signed by 190 British and Irish actors demanding an end to tolerance of sexual harassment, violence, abuse and discrimination, both in the entertainment sector and across industry and society as a whole, female stars attending the BAFTAs on 18 February 2018 wore black in a show of solidarity and unity. This sentiment was echoed at the BRIT awards on 21 February 2018 where performers, presenters and attendees carried a single white rose following a similar demonstration at the 2018 Grammy Awards in solidarity with the Time’s Up movement.

Few can have failed to notice the growing strength of the Time’s Up movement, which was started by some 300 female Hollywood actors, executives, writers and directors to counter systemic sexual harassment in the entertainment business in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations which came to light in October 2017.

In the UK, it has been said that more than half of women, and almost two thirds of women aged 18-24, report having been subjected to sexual harassment at work.  In addition, it has been reported that the gender pay gap for women in their 20’s is now five times greater than it was six years ago. This, along with Time’s Up, that was initiated by a scandal in the entertainment industry, has allowed a much wider movement supporting equality in all industries and workplaces to quickly gain momentum and has led various activists and actors in the UK to collaborate and form the UK Justice and Equality Fund, a new body intended to provide a network of support and advice in relation to harassment and abuse in the workplace.

Update on Pimlico Plumbers Case

Update on Pimlico Plumbers Case

The Supreme Court has started hearing the case of Pimlico Plumbers Limited (“Pimlico”) and Another v Smith. Mr Smith originally brought a Tribunal claim against Pimlico after he suffered a heart attack and claimed that he was subsequently dismissed by Pimlico.  Mr Smith commenced proceedings in the Tribunal claiming unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and disability discrimination.  The Tribunal decided that Mr Smith was not an employee, but that he was a worker.  Accordingly, he enjoyed the basic employment rights associated with worker status, for example, the right to the national minimum wage and paid holidays.  The Tribunal also found that his working situation met the definition of “employment” in the Equality Act 2010 and he was therefore also able to bring claims for discrimination against Pimlico.

Pimlico’s appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and subsequently to the Court of Appeal were dismissed. The case is now being heard by the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court’s judgment will be extremely important as it will set a precedent for other similar disputes in the so called “gig economy”, such as the dispute between Uber and its drivers.

Protected Conversations

Protected Conversations

Unless either party has behaved improperly, s.111A Employment Rights Act 1996 operates to protect pre-termination discussions between employer and employee from being referred to by either party in any subsequent unfair dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal. However, the EAT held in the case of Basra v BJSS Limited that there is an exception to this rule if there is a dispute over the date of termination.

The Claimant in this case had sent an email to the Respondent saying “today will be the last day at BJSS”. This email was sent in response to a without prejudice offer letter that the Respondent had sent to the Claimant.  Following this email, the Claimant stopped attending work and subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

The Respondent argued the Claimant’s employment had ended by mutual termination and that his email was a resignation. The Claimant denied resigning and said he had been dismissed by the Respondent at a later date. The tribunal at first instance excluded from consideration the Respondent’s offer made under s.111A on the basis that, unlike without prejudice correspondence, s.111A protection cannot be waived.

On appeal, the EAT held that as the protection under s.111A only applies to pre-termination negotiations, “the chronological line between what is, and what is not, admissible therefore lies on the point at which the contract is terminated” and that “where there is a dispute as to whether or not the contract was terminated on a particular date, the tribunal would not be in a position to say what evidence should be excluded until that dispute is determined“.

Therefore, as s.111A applies only to pre-termination discussions, the tribunal must first determine the date of termination before it is able to decide what is protected under s.111A.

Covert Surveillance in the Workplace

Covert Surveillance in the Workplace

The European Court of Human Rights in Lopez Ribalda & Ors v Spain recently held that covert camera surveillance at work breaches the ECHR Article 8 right to privacy.

In this case, a supermarket installed both visible and hidden surveillance cameras to address suspected theft. Workers were only told about the visible cameras and not those that were hidden from view. Covert images recovered on the hidden cameras recorded instances of employees stealing items from the supermarket and several employees were dismissed using these covert images as evidence. The dismissed employees claimed there had been a breach of Article 8 and their data protection rights.

At first instance, a Spanish court held that the installation of covert surveillance cameras was a justified, appropriate, necessary and proportionate measure to try to combat theft.

On appeal the European Court of Human Rights disagreed and found that the right to privacy under Article 8 had been violated. It was stated that video surveillance in the workplace is a considerable intrusion into private life and that personal data extends to personal appearance.

The General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) (GDPR) defines personal data as “any information relating to a data subject” (Article 4(1)). A data subject is the identified or identifiable person to whom the personal data relates.

A person is identifiable if he or she “can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity” of that person (Article 4(1), GDPR).

Furthermore, to comply with data protection laws, employees must be “explicitly, precisely and unambiguously“: –

  • informed of the existence of a personal data file, which in this case was the covert recording of the employees at work;
  • have confirmation regarding how that data will be processed;
  • have confirmation of the purpose for collection of that data; and
  • have confirmation of the recipients of that data.

In this case it was found that a fair balance between the right of the supermarket to take measures to prevent theft and the right of its employees to a private life in terms of the personal data collected by the supermarket had not been struck.

Slater Heelis Property Team Reach Regional Final

Slater Heelis Property Team Reach Regional Final

It has been a great start to the New Year with the Slater Heelis property team announced as a finalist for ‘Property Team of the Year’ at the Manchester Legal Awards 2018.

There is a shortlist of just three firms for this prestigious award which recognises legal service excellence in the North West property sector.

The Manchester Legal Awards are renowned for their stringent judging process, with 14 leading names from the legal and business communities reviewing entrants’ performance over the past 12 months.

To be shortlisted, firms had to demonstrate exceptional service, notable cases, commercial value to clients, astute business management and people development.

Will Henson, partner at Slater Heelis, said: “Only firms which can show a genuinely high all round service offering are shortlisted in the Manchester Legal Awards.

“The competition is incredibly strong every year so we are proud to already be recognised as one of the best firms for property legal services in the North West.

“This is due to a combination of a highly skilled and experienced team, property projects that are already changing the face of Manchester and beyond and the positive commercial impact of our advice for our long-standing clients.

“Everybody in both our commercial and residential teams should take great satisfaction that their efforts not only impress our fantastic clients but have also now been noted by an illustrious judging panel.”

The overall winners of the Manchester Legal Awards will be announced at a gala dinner at Manchester’s Midland Hotel on 1 March 2018.

If you require property related legal services and advice, contact us today.

Carillion enters into liquidation

Carillion enters into liquidation

Construction giant Carillion has entered into liquidation with debts estimated to be around £1.5 billion. Carillion employs around 20,000 in the UK.

It has been reported that Carillion outsourced virtually all of its work, which included maintenance of prisons, hospitals and schools and military contracts. Carillion relied heavily on sub-contractors and therefore the financial consequences will be widely felt across hundreds of small businesses as a result of Carillion being unable to pay its debts.

PWC, the accountancy firm which is overseeing Carillion’s liquidation, has stated that “unless told otherwise, all employees, agents and subcontractors are being asked to continue to work as normal and they will be paid for the work they do during the liquidation”. However, other reports suggest that work has stopped on many projects with workers being told to go home. In the wake of Carillion’s collapse, the future of thousands of Carillion’s employees and those of its sub-contractors looks uncertain.