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Employment Law Update

contractsignAfter a wet, grey summer, we’ve got a raft of employment law to sift through – and a few cases that give us an interesting insight into how it is being implemented.

In this month's Employment Law Update, we look at case law providing guidance to emergency leave for dependants, and grievance procedures. Plus, news on the use of lie detectors to prevent false sickness claims and also a national register of dishonest employees, both of which are strategies to help reduce business crime.

Sick Leave - Are Lie Detectors the way forward?

It may soon be possible for employers to use lie detectors to help determine whether their employees are genuinely unwell. The idea was borne after trials carried out to determine false benefits claims proved to be successful. Variations in a person’s voice can be detected to establish whether or not false information is being given. This may not be such a ludicrous idea if employers are able to save on cost lost due to their employees taking unnecessary sick days – which has been estimated by employers groups as 12% of overall sick days.

Reducing Against Business Crime - The National Staff Dismissal Register

Companies can now have access to details of employees who either have been dismissed for acts of dishonesty or have left employment whilst under investigation for such conduct. How is this possible? Action Against Business Crime (the national organisation for Business Crime Reduction Partnerships) has set up a register which allows organisations that sign up access to such information.

Employers who are considering signing up to use this register are advised to take some care and monitor its development, particularly as data protection of the information held could be contentious issues. Also, it is uncertain how those who compile the register will ensure that the details on it are reliable, particularly where there have been no convictions and where they may simply be allegations against the employee

Dependant's Leave - When is it applicable?

The case of Cortest Limited v O'Toole: This case provides direction for employees when handling employees’ statutory right to take emergency time off to care after dependants.

After a domestic crisis, O’Toole requested one or two months leave to care for his children. The Employment Tribunal came to the decision that this request must be warranted as this was exactly that, an emergency where the employee needed the time off to deal with a crisis immediately and to set up alternative arrangements for his children. It was also clarified that it is not applicable to situations where employees need considerable time off to take care of dependants themselves.

Grievance Procedures

The statutory dismissal and grievance procedures are to be cancelled in April 2009. Considering that introduction had caused a lot of controversy it is thought that this may bring a smile back to many faces. Instead, employers will have to follow ACAS guidelines, which are to be rolled out in closer to the date. It is thought that they will be less rigid and more flexible.

Meanwhile, there have been a number of new cases that have come to light that have attributed to refining the law further in this area. In particular is the case of Clyde Valley Housing v MacAulay. In the case, the Scottish Employment Appeal Tribunal moved away from preceding tribunal practice and accepted pretty much any sort of complaint as having met the statutory procedure to raise a grievance before a claim is accepted by a tribunal.

In this case, the EAT backed the employer and ruled that a proper grievance complaint had not been logged by the employee before bringing the claim. Ms MacAulay resigned from Clyde Valley Housing and arranged for her solicitors to contact her employer detailing a number of allegations. The employer then contacted Ms MacAulay requesting a further clarification of these allegations, which were not forthcoming, so they contacted her again stating that they could not deal with the complaint.

Following this the EAT established that Ms MacAulay could not bring her claim as she had not set out her grievance complaint and the reason for making it before filing an application to the tribunal.

  • 1st October 2008
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